A SPY Softball editorial 7-4-2010
During the weeks following the Wall Street Journal’s inexplicable publishing a photograph of Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan, clad in jeans and sweat shirt, playing softball – with a story implying that softball is a lesbian sport – SPY has weighed an editorial denouement of the media’s defamation of our sport, but held off to see what the hearings would produce.
Gratifyingly, the US Senators questioning Kagan did not touch on the issue of her sexuality – nor further demean our sport.
The media, however, showed no such constraint.
The editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune launched a series of cartoons in late June, all focusing on the cartoonist’s fascination with the “is she or isn’t she” question. Unfortunately, Scott Stantis’ work has been picked up by other media, notably the following cartoon.
SPY looked in vain for rebuttals from the softball community – and especially coaches at Northwestern, DePaul, UIC, Illinois, Illinois State and others in the Chicago orbit – and found nothing.
When he began the series, Scott Stantis treated it as a joke; he wrote: ..”and so begins a PC series on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan. The rumors swirling about her sex life, (or lack thereof), continue to titillate some in the media. As you may know from my editorial cartoon, I REALLY don’t care what she is. As long as she is smart, honest and conservative.(Oh well, two out of three ain’t too bad…)” The issue is not a joke! Nor is the integrity of the sport of softball.
When the issue first broke, ISF President Don Porter issued the following statement – which, not surprising, missed the point.
PLANT CITY, FLORIDA (USA) — In their ongoing coverage of U.S. Supreme Court Judge nominee Elena Kagan, the media is painting the sport of softball with one off-color brush, says Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation, the sport’s world governing body. Mr. Porter pointed out that his is a “sport for all,” regardless of age, sex, or ability level. The ISF president added, “The media has chosen to try to put a label on athletes who play this sport. I’ve heard more about softball that way in one week than I did about our sport, period, in one year during our BackSoftball campaign that sought to get women’s fast pitch reinstated to the Olympic Games programme for 2016. While it’s good to hear our sport mentioned in the major media during the past few days, it has been more in a negative sense than positive because of its tie to the Supreme Court nominee and the pros and cons of her athletic ability rather than her legal attributes.”
None of the stories SPY found through a Google search weighed the pro’s and con’s of Elena Kagan’s “athletic ability.” Not sure why Porter couldn’t meet this issue head-on.
For the record, while the Wall St Journal has never satisfactorily explained why it chose a front-page picture of Kagan playing softball to announce her nomination by President Obama, which left readers well-exercised opportunity to bore in on WSJ’s motives, the allegations, insinuations, etc., were actually generated by activists in a national gay alliance, especially Andrew Sullivan, for the ostensible purpose of “outing” Kagan. (Sullivan, known for his brazen exploits to out people, was also relentless in trying to prove Trig Palin’s “real” parenthood.)
One would think that, if these activists truly believed Kagan was a closet lesbian, their causes might be better served by having a Supreme Court Justice whose sexual preference was moot. But, in the years SPY has dealt with protest groups (not on this issue), they are generally focused on causing as much harm as possible. Bluntly, they are not politically smart. They had no prospect of derailing her nomination, only to cause harm, if possible, and gain attention.
Regrettably, both WSJ and New York Times published the softball picture, and ran stories in which others (not their editors to be sure) insinuated a lesbian-softball connection. Indeed, the editorial contrivance was to highlight the story by quoting others who would make the point almost as proxies for the media. Gay rights organizations complained about the photo, saying the Wall Street Journal purposefully ran the photo in order to insinuate Kagan is a lesbian. The New York Post, another Murdoch-owned paper, was then able to run stories about the Kagan rumors by seemingly making the story about the complaints of gay rights groups. The Post story also featured the “infamous” softball photo and a story which basically runs with the “women who play softball are gay” stereotype.
Consider these excerpts from Gawker which are typical of the “is she” press:
“She played softball: When she worked at the University of Chicago, she played softball. There are pictures to prove it. Sorry, but softball=lesbian. She wears plaid: Okay, since we’re digging out the circumstantial evidence, there is a picture of Kagan from 1977 where she is wearing a plaid, flannel shirt. Sorry, but, like softball, flannel=lesbian. Verdict: Between the hair, the softball, the “open secret” at Harvard, the purported partner, and the Andrew Sullivan outing, I’m going to go ahead and guess she’s gay. It should be interesting to see how her orientation plays out during the confirmation process and whether or not any one on the Judiciary Committee will come right out and ask her.”
The Washington Post’s equivalent of Lucretia Borgia is a harpy named Robin Givhan, who lambasted Kagan as lesbian because she doesn’t cross her legs (the Post carried a photo of Kagan with legs crossed) and dissed her clothing style. Givhan’s other pursuit of notoriety came in an article about Hillary Clinton’s cleavage. (Not even Slick Willie notes HC’s cleavage.)
For a period after Kagan’s nomination in May, the sex life issue seemed to have abated, thanks in part to blunt denials by the White House, and rebuttals by the Huffington Post, the Nation, the Week, the Atlantic and others, as well as CBS finally agreeing to retract statements by its commentators. Fox of course only abandoned the chase when the hearings started.
Alas, a Google search after the Kagan hearings ended reveals that the “sex life” story and the alleged softball connection have not ended.
Let’s be candid.
For all of my adult life, I have been what those in certain agencies call a “keeper of the secrets.” That ability and an intuitive and very narrow sense of the public’s “right to know” has stood me in good stead – through many challenges. (See below for a somewhat humorous story on a secret I tried hard to extract but failed.)
There are indeed lesbians in the softball world, as well as some gays, some married, some not, just as there are in the larger world outside the softball community. The softball community mirrors that larger world – in every form of human sexual and social communication. (In that global village, I have also known prominent men who cheated on their wives, some wives who cheated on husbands, a few nymphomaniacs, and an infinite number of crooked politicians, rogues, thieves, gun-runners, dope smugglers, killers etc who aren’t worth the powder it would take to kill them).
But, to imply that softball is a lesbian sport does a grave injustice to the girls-women who have played our sport, from the scraggy lots to Olympic stadia. Sullivan should have witnessed the recent Congressional softball game, where so many players in both dugouts brought their husbands and children.
We are America, and I fervently wish the softball community had responded – hard.!
More, there are so many issues Kagan and the Court must address which are absolutely more pertinent to the interests of the body politic. The hearings did not define Kagan as either a liberal or conservative, but more as a pragmatist who will decide issues that please both blocs – and infuriate them. In her comments about stare decisis she also kept her future colleagues at bay, while positioning herself (astutely) to be the swing vote to replace John Paul Stevens. That matter of Court precedent will emerge quickly as the Court considers challenges to its incredible, unthinking Citizens United decision on corporate financing of campaigns. Kagan, as Solicitor General, opposed that decision. Kagan is a very competitive, very ambitious lawyer, who while never serving on the bench has an encyclopedia knowledge of the law.
The Court’s recent decision on a constitutional right to possess arms raised more questions than it answered, and may be interpreted by lower courts over the years. The Court did not strike down specific local laws, and there will be tests of local govenments’ rights to require licenses (and restrict who can obtain them). Open-carry laws are a certain challenge. There are a litany of First Amendment issues to resolve. (I haven’t carried a gun since my hastily-exited departure from Bogota in the ‘80s, but if that group from Kansas had picketed my brother’s military funeral, they would have caught the next bus to Purgatory). Every American has a stake in future decisions on immigration, the right to die, abortion, etc. The Court will be challenged on how to prosecute terrorist crimes. There are constitutional challenges to new laws on health care wending their way toward the court.
So many issues more relevant to national life than Kagan’s sexual preference. And, Santis could have vented his spleen without his disparagement of softball. Indeed, I wish Santis had published the following cartoon – and abandoned the topic.
And, I wish softball people would be more assertive about softball – as a sport for people all around the world, male and female, without regard to race, creed, color or sexual preference.
A secret not told.
There are a few “secrets” I will carry to the grave, including a “suspicion” that I could never confirm. Years ago, when I was an investigative reporter in New York, the rumor seeping through the political landscape was that a large bribe had been offered to secure passage of a very controversial proposed law. Several reporters thought they knew who offered the bribe and its purpose, and a few thought they knew the intended recipient. The open question was: who was the bagman? I had a confidential informant who helped me when I was trying to find missing Mafioso Joe Bananas, and I asked him who he thought was positioned to be the bagman on this kind of deal. One name intrigued me, partly because that name had not surfaced on the political rumor mill. I heard the man was dying. The story told later is that his wife caught me at his bedside while he was expiring, trying to wrest the story from him. Not true. Instead, I told him by phone that I had some evidence implicating him (only a suspicion) and urged him to meet. He picked a small restaurant in the Adirondacks, closed for the winter. We met; the owner had left a back door open. We were no more than five minutes into our talk when the phone on the bar rang – in a closed restaurant. My target answered the phone, and from the brief conversation, I knew my scoop had evaporated. Hanging up, he said certain unnamed people knew he was meeting with me – and he had to go. Puzzled as to how they learned of the meeting, I got my answer outside. I had broken tradecraft! When I took the target’s message off my answering machine, I was hours from my home, so I went to the meeting in the car I was driving at the time – a European-design Mercedes 300C, with the license plate: RFH1, topped by a New York press shield.!
Learned later that my would-be informant had people watching him, fearful he would tell all before he died, and there were people watching me because of a story I wrote about the Mafia infiltration into the Teamsters’ Union, an incident which would soon after cause me to be “consensually kidnapped” by the mafia – but that’s another story.