ESPN contributor Jemele Hill has a fondness for writing open letters to entire “classes” of persons based on the activities of individuals. The recent press articles concerning the receipt and use of human growth hormone (HGH) by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel seems like the perfect occasion for an Open Letter to “young white men.” There are some cautionary tales from Ankiel’s story of which “young white men” should be advised. Here’s what I think she would say – if she were so inclined.
Dear young, white men:
Today, many of you are shocked, crushed, disappointed. You are befuddled, bewildered and numb that the “feel good” story of the Black Summer of 2007 has been snatched like a gold chain. You are angry at MLB and the media for linking this story to Barry Bonds’ use of performance-enhancing drugs, when HGH is clearly no big deal. You are amazed that anyone is actually discussing this “non-issue” from three years ago. You note that since Rick Ankiel only received a one-year supply, there is no way he could using HGH now. There is no way this is an issue. You note that Rick is perfectly within his rights to “dummy up” and claim client-doctor privileges. Sure, if he was Black you’d say if he has nothing to hide, he should let everyone know the entire situation. But this is different. This is the feel good story of the Black Summer of 2007. You are just tired of hearing about all of this. Enough. It happened three years ago…leave the man alone.
You are feeling a lot of things — some possessing merit — but I caution you not to make
Vick Rick a martyr. Do not applaud him for taking his comeuppance like some modern-day gangster. Do not blame others for Vick’s Rick’s predicament when he alone should be held accountable for his actions.Let this historic unraveling be a wake-up call for the young, white men caught up in the same lifestyle that claimed Mark McGwire and Troy Glaus and Chris Benoit and Rick Ankiel. Let his embarrassment send the message that a continued allegiance to synthetic drug culture successfully keeps young, white men frighteningly behind in American society. You’ve seen what happens when your brothers and sisters fail to heed the warnings about Crystal Meth. Synthetic drugs are laying waste to this nation. This is nothing to take lightly. The American Psychiatric Association reports use may be much more widespread than assumed. Get off your skateboards and wake up.
As the Ankiel case shows, millions of dollars are little protection if a certain mentality remains. Until now, Rick was considered one of the lucky ones. He rose out of
poverty obscurity to become one of the most mesmerizing pitcher-hitters since Babe Ruth. He went from the disaster of a playoff flameout to capturing the hearts of the nation. He wasn’t the American dream, but the American reality. He had the support of a city, of a people and he struck a chord with many young, white men because they saw themselves in him — rebellious tenacious, strong and heroic.
But Rick let you down. He betrayed you. He heightened the stereotypes of white men instead of eroding them. Racists certainly will feast on Rick, but he was the one who made himself an entrée. He should have had more sense than to allow himself to get embroiled in a drug scandal when Barry Bonds had become the figurehead for our collective hard-on.
You can say Rick was persecuted unfairly by
the white media Black bloggers, say we should be more concerned with the war in Iraq than an illegal drug ring or say his downfall wouldn’t be a 24-hour news event if he were the highest-paid white Black quarterback.
But it’s impossible to stand on moral high ground while trying to defend something so low. Rick did something wrong, something against the spirit of the game. Tommy John didn’t need HGH to recover from Tommy John surgery. Even the federal government doesn’t consider Rick’s condition an acceptable use for HGH. Even worse, he appears to be the latest in a long line of questionable activities surrounding THARC and former Canseco/McGwire manager, Tony LaRussa. The trail of performing-enhancing drugs and performance-reducing intoxicants follow LaRussa like the smell of a skunk. Even my colleague Mike Lupica wonders why Rick had any involvement whatsoever with an aging clinic. He’s still a young man. And so are you…
I understand Rick’s guilt is a tough, humbling thing to swallow because the one thing white men in this society understand is the feeling of being piled upon, discounted and discarded. I’ve known more than a few angry white men in my day. Hell, there have even been movies about it. I understand your pain. Last year, several studies showed that American white men are failing at an alarming and heartbreaking rate. More than half of married white men are destined for divorce. There are more white men dead in Iraq than free from the shackles of constant recrimination by the liberal media. Everyone else in society — Blacks, Latinos, women — is gaining ground, but white men are losing ground – and no one seems to care. You might want to immortalize Rick because of his Ruthian at-bat:home run ratio. It’s a fools game. Don’t do it.
White men have a history of being marginalized and demonized in the liberal media, so although your rush to defend Rick was misguided, it also was understandable.
But now that we know of his guilt and complicity, let’s be honest and not use racism as an excuse. Let’s not point to Rodney Harrison, Wade Wilson and Barry Bonds and cite their crimes — as if wrongs can exonerate other wrongs. Racism isn’t putting Rick under the spotlight. Awful decisions did that.
Instead, let’s attack this poisonous idea in the white community that equates only negatives with success. Surely, one reasons Rick appeared with Cardinal GM Walt Jockety is because successful white people are pressured into keeping their toxic buddies around for the sake of “professional appearances” — even though they’ve spent most of their lives trying to escape the tedium of those very professional structures in which many of their closest friends remain.
Of course, what’s forgotten is that if Rick’s “Cardinal friends” truly cared about him, they never would have allowed him to jeopardize his rising star and MLB career for a mere return to the game. The medical community has not been decisive on the harm that may be done by HGH. Rick did not even use HGH under the strict direction of a doctor. None of us can know the extent to which he continues to use HGH. It’s all conjecture. The “feel good” man involved in HGH and hiding behind client-doctor privilege just sounds like so much else that has transpired in St. Louis recently.
I wanted to address this letter to young, white men because they fall victim to this mentality more so than any other group. No other group is so routinely surprised at events like this. American Blacks and Latinos were not shocked in the least to hear of Rick’s transgressions or those of Troy Glaus. In fact, those communities are simply waiting for the shoe to drop on one of your heroes: Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Bigio. Be vigilant. Don’t give up now. It’s not just white athletes facing a crisis but white men, period. You see how they went after Larry Craig and Scooter Libby and Don Imus.
Rick was in a position to show that young, white men are not something to be feared (“All they want are statistics and oil.”); to show that not all young white men are into chemical enhancement through crystal meth or Viagra or anabolic steroids; that not all white men are committed to a new genetic self. But instead of leading the
Falcons Cardinals to the playoffs this fall, Rick may be among the nearly hundreds of thousands watching the Cubs — which sadly constitutes half of the nation’s population. Instead of wrapping himself in the support he received from millions of fans — many of whom look like you — Rick aligned himself with a destructive culture that is being indirectly endorsed as long as some AfricanEuropean-Americans continue to make pathetic excuses for an immature wanna-be millionaire.
You may not believe this, but I hope Rick Ankiel is not still using HGH. I hope he plays baseball for decades. I hope his comeback is just as good, if not better, than Jason Giambi’s.
But mostly, I hope that, through Rick, other white men learn that society is quite capable of gobbling them up. No extra help is needed.