TORONTO - The most predictable news conferences ever were those boxing card announcements.
You’d have the main-event combatants sitting between a promoter. One of the boxers would get up to say a few words and then the other boxer would become offended and yell something back. Eventually, they’d charge towards each other and the handlers would have to rush in to break it up. And then everyone would say, “Wow, this is going to be helluva fight.”
And then the promoter would sit there with a big, goofy grin on his face.
It was all so predictable, but it was also fun.
I mean, what’s more exciting to collection of dopey sports writers than two athletes yelling at each other? I know I always enjoyed that sort of thing, though the script did deviate sometimes, like when Mike Tyson took a bite out of Lennox Lewis’ leg.
You don’t see as many boxing news conferences like that anymore. What you do see much more these days are Mea culpa news conferences. The difference is, Mea culpas are not fun. They’re annoying.
If you watched the Yunel Escobar gong show on Tuesday, you know how it works: Athlete says or does something offensive. Professional damage control ensues. Athlete apologies (and often claims ignorance in defence of his transgression). Athlete and team officials look suitably contrite. A slap on the wrist follows (in this case a three-game suspension). And then everyone moves on.
Two days from now, when the Maple Leafs equipment manager resigns and everyone in Toronto goes nuts, all will be forgotten.
The only new twist to the Mea culpa conference is the offending athlete now becomes an advocate for the person or people they offended. Escobar is going to meet with You Can Play founder Patrick Burke this week, which is great.
But the problem is, press conferences like the one held for Escobar have become so predictable and staged, that they reek of insincerity.
No doubt, Escobar is sorry for his actions, though I’m still waiting for the Jays shortstop to explain exactly what he meant by “TU ERE MARICON,” beyond the fact that he didn’t mean to offend anyone, that something was lost in translation, that it was a Latino thing, etc, etc. (Tu Ere Maricon can be translated as “You are a fa...t.”)
But he didn’t. Perhaps because it was all a little too much for the Jays shortstop.
You couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for Escobar sitting in that little room in Yankee Stadium. He looked a deer caught in the headlights. Blue Jays general Alex Anthopoulos was probably right when he said the bottom line for such stupidity is a lack of education.
Still, no matter what Escobar meant by Tu Ere Maricon, he was dumb to write it and wear it. If those words aren’t offensive in Cuban Spanish, fine. But he isn’t playing professional baseball in Cuba. Perhaps he should have realized sticking Tu Ere Maricon under his eyes might be interpreted as offensive outside of a Cuba — or wherever Tu Ere Maricon is supposedly a fun and joyful expression.
It’s like when my boss overhears me telling the boys at the office that “Pierce is a myron,” and then my explaining to him later that in central Etobicoke lingo myron means “efficient and handsome”.
The difference is, Escobar never did offer an explanation as to what he meant by those words, other than he didn’t mean to offend anyone.
If Tu Ere Maricon doesn’t mean You are a fa...t” in Cuban Spanish, what does it mean? We’re still waiting for an answer.
No doubt, it’s frustrating trying to explain yourself or convey a message when you don’t speak the language. There was obviously a ‘lost in translation’ element to Escobar’s explanation on Tuesday. There had to be, otherwise he wouldn’t have thrown up that laughable “some of my best friends are gay” line (including the guy who cuts his hair and other guy who decorates his house).
I did feel a little bit sorry for Escobar because, frankly, I felt that Blue Jays should have taken a little more heat than they did. How dumb were the Jays not to notice the writing under Escobar’s eyes before he went on to the field?
Manager John Farrell explained that his shortstop is always writing stuff on his face, therefore they didn’t worry about any new message he might write under his eyes.
This is a multi-million dollar organization, owned by billion dollar corporation and no one notices a homophobic slur under their starting shortstop’s eyes?
Maybe a policy should have been put in place pertaining to personal messages being written on eye black. This was a controversy just waiting to happen.