Friday, May 23, 2008

Piazza, New York Catcher


Or: How do I know you're gay? Because two hipsters insinuated so.

I'm not, nor have I ever been a fan, of Mike Piazza. But I've never hated the guy either, nor have I ever put much credence or thought into the rumors that have followed him throughout his career regarding his sexuality.

Another thing I've never been is a fan of is hippy jam sessions. Foolishly, I purchased the Juno soundtrack a few months back, if for nothing else than the Mott the Hoople track, which, until the purchase, I only had on vinyl.

I really hadn't listened to it until yesterday. Not knowing the song or artist I was actually listening to, I heard the words:
San Francisco’s calling us, the Giants and Mets will play
Piazza, New York catcher, are you straight or are you gay?
My immediate reaction was "WTF was that?"

I look down at my iPod and see a song titled "Piazza, New York Catcher" by some duo calling themselves Belle & Sebastian.

My second thought is, "Why is this guy so hated?"

Sure he had Elton John's arm and Freddie Mercury's 'stache, but he hit as well as any catcher who ever played.

He was a Rookie of the Year, 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger. What fan wouldn't want him on their team? There is no argument on whether or not he is a Hall of Famer. And the real debate shouldn't be on what hat he should wear, but rather why his sexuality now outweighs his performance as the greatest hitting catcher who ever played.

The joke's so old that it's not even funny anymore.

Paul Lukas, a writer who we greatly enjoy, posted an article on ESPN this week titled "Good riddance, Mike Piazza," primarily citing Piazza's selfishness and failure to advocate for gay rights.

Mike Piazza is a baseball player who did what he was paid to do by organizations willing to pay him for his services as a catcher. Simple supply and demand. He offered his goods and teams paid for his services. How is that different than any other athlete? That's all they are - commodities. Maybe some of us would like them to be social advocates or more team-minded, but for a "career" that spans (in Piazza's case) only 15-years, why should we ask or expect more out of them? Would Piazza have done anything different for the fans he played for especially now when they are so quick to brush him away? Why would or should any of them?

We should judge our athletes on what they do on the field, and we have a right to criticize them for what they do off of it. Ultimately, fan opinion will shape athletes' legacies. Whether they be Pete Rose and Jose Canseco or Mike Piazza. Unfortunately, Rose and Canseco's on-field accomplishments are greatly overshadowed by their extra-curricular shenanigans. Piazza deserves better. Because, really, his off-field shenanigans don't even exist. Yet, they are the first thing online pundits point to.

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