Tim Benz: Attacks on Pirates’ Steve Blass are shameful, unwarranted | TribLIVE.com
Tim Benz, Columnist

Tim Benz: Attacks on Pirates’ Steve Blass are shameful, unwarranted

Tim Benz
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Pirates World Series champion Steve Blass reacts during a press conference announcing that he will retire from broadcasting after this season Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at PNC Park. The 2019 season will mark his 60th year with the Pirates organization, first as a pitcher and then as a broadcaster.

I’m not going to defend Steve Blass.

Mainly because the Pirates broadcaster’s six-decade-long reputation in baseball should stand on its own.

It’s a reputation of being an ambassador of the game, rooted in his ability to be well-liked and respected by those of many different races and nationalities.

For 36 years in broadcasting, Blass has frequently espoused near-tearful soliloquies of his undying admiration and love for teammates such as Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Manny Sanguillen.

If, sadly, that’s not enough, Blass is getting plenty of backing from former teammates others in the Pittsburgh media already.

People who have known him for a large chunk of his 77 years on this earth. People who — if Blass is the racist some are painting him out to be today — would have probably figured that out by now.

The former Pirates pitcher doesn’t need any more help from me.

Also, I’m not keen on rushing to Blass’ defense because I don’t entirely agree with the point he was trying to make while being critical of Braves player Ronald Acuna Jr. on Tuesday night.

Yeah. It was a little too much “back in my day … get off my lawn … I’ll yell at this cloud” for my taste, too.

It’s not the first time the Pirates broadcast has traversed down that path this year, either. Just rewind the tapes to John Wehner’s “grandpa shaming” of the Reds’ Derek Dietrich.

What Blass may be guilty of is being stodgy and dated. Not racist. As some from the national media want you to believe.

I’ll let others tell you what the difference is if you can’t figure it out on your own. Maybe they’ll defend Blass on his behalf if he doesn’t decide to do so on his own.

I prefer to attack those attacking Blass. I’d rather shine a light on them for being the preening, pandering, “gotcha culture” phonies they are.

Who am I referencing? Writers — mainly those from national outlets — who jumped at the chance to assign a racial undercurrent to Blass’ comments, where none was intended.

Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports: Of course, when a certain kind of guy — older, white — complains about “flashy,” jewelry-wearing players, they’re complaining about black and Latino players approximately 100% of the time. It’s just basic racist dog whistling nonsense that is well-established among white people deriding people of color for their style choices and what they perceive to be inappropriately conspicuous consumption.

Mark Powell at 12up: Blass is an old, white man in a time when baseball is pushing diversity … Broadcasters are judged firmly by their words — it’s literally what they do. And despite being in his final season, Blass has spent enough time perfecting his craft that if he’s truly being honest with himself, he’d agree he should’ve worded his argument better, or avoided the topic altogether.”

Matt Clapp at Awful Announcing: And it’s the kind of thing you pretty much never hear about a *white* ballplayer, many of whom also wear jewelry or accessories.

Here’s the thing. Bryce Harper is white. And Blass ripped him in the same way.

I know, don’t let consistency of opinion get in the way of your attempt to invent a racial divide.

Beyond that, feel free to completely ignore that Blass explicitly pointed out that his comments were in regard to how things may have been handled on the mound back in his playing days in the 1960s and ’70s.

Not how they should be handled now.

And most importantly, go right ahead and inject an accusation of racial hate speech when none was referenced.

Let’s call these people out for who they are and what they are doing.

They are posturing, attention-seekers who are publicly virtue-signaling so that they can get as many likes and retweets from their blue-check brethren as possible.

This is social media opportunism. Nothing more. Calling someone a racist who doesn’t deserve it is a lousy, rotten thing to do.

When people like these twits spray around accusations such as this, it blurs the outrage that should exist when genuine, hurtful, racial injustice or stereotyping does occur.

Eh, but what does any of that matter if you can look good at the expense of making someone else look bad, right?

I’ll end with this tweet.

OK. Fair enough.

I’d argue it’s also important for society to cease amplifying the shame climate of the day.

We need to stop searching for ways to pin racism to moments where it isn’t present in an attempt to pose and curry favor on Twitter while seeking to advance one’s brand.

Many have done those things in the wake of Blass’ comment. Those acts are far more shameful than failing to grasp that “some of these young kids today” wear the occasional gold chain.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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