Luke Scott is a gun-humping birther survivalist lunatic who keeps a pistol in his sofa cushion and throws plantain chips at a black teammate when he acts "like a savage." Sounds like an asshole, right? But things aren't so simple, ESPN's Amy K. Nelson tells us in her recent profile of Scott, and she's absolutely right: Luke Scott is a gun-humping birther survivalist lunatic who's lucky to have ESPN acting as his publicist.
Nelson suggests in her lede that Luke Scott "will require a deeper line of thinking" so that we may get past the simple perception that the Orioles outfielder is a "a right-wing nut, a borderline racist and a loudmouth redneck ballplayer." And then she proceeds to write a remarkably detailed profile of a "a right-wing nut, a borderline racist and a loudmouth redneck ballplayer" who keeps pistols in his couch cushions. She devotes approximately 3,490 words to a story about an ignorant asshole and 10 words to trying to convince both herself and her readers that he is anything but.
There is nothing especially wrong with being a colossally ignorant asshole; baseball, and the world, is full of them. It's not Luke Scott's job to be a sensitive guy, and it's not his job to be informed about anything other than how to play baseball. But nor is it an ESPN reporter's job to mislead her readers in what, to these eyes, looks like a clumsy attempt not to offend the sensibilities of some of them.
Some people would argue that it's not the reporter's job to be critical, and ESPN, we know, has certain unspoken constraints that come with reporting on the leagues it does business with. (We would disagree with the former as strenuously as ESPN would disagree with the latter.) But "Always Locked and Loaded" is so solicitous to its subject and to his worldview and so self-lobotomized that it reads like a chapter in Scott's authorized biography. When Scott raises, again, questions about our president's nationality, Nelson doesn't say, simply, that the guy is wrong, that the earth is in fact round, that there aren't two sides to the issue. She writes:
But negative reaction cascaded, too, with some bloggers saying that evidence Obama was born in Hawaii is overwhelming...
"Some bloggers." Seriously.
Another example: According to the story, Scott sees himself as a sort of missionary, here to Americanize his foreign, "dark-skinned" (Nelson's word) teammates by teaching them to adhere to "basic principles" that "trace back to the founders of this country."
Nelson tells Scott that she "[wants] to explore his relationship" with Dominican teammate Felix Pie. Even with his financial adviser present to "[pull] Scott aside to quietly remind him to take care when he discusses other races," she learns this:
"Felix is my friend," he says. "I give him a hard time. The reason why I give him a hard time is because there are certain people you deal with and you go up and talk to them, and it doesn't work. They don't understand.
"I tell him about some of the ways he's acted: 'Look, you're acting like an animal, you're acting like a savage.'"
Scott turns to his locker and pulls out a bag of plantain chips.
"So I throw bananas in his helmet. Here are my banana chips to remind him that whenever he acts like an animal, 'Hey, that's what other people are thinking. They're just not telling you, but that's what they're thinking about. And I'm telling you so that you're aware of that so you can make a cognitive decision to not behave like that.' I would want someone to tell me that instead of letting you making a jerk of yourself."
Why would Scott choose potentially loaded words like "animal" and "savage" — and how can they not offend either his friend or anyone in the locker room who overhears? Most teammates asked about it laugh or smile. They cite it as part of the two players' playful relationship, part of life in a big league clubhouse — there are things that fly in there that wouldn't in the outside world.
One Orioles team source explains it like this: "He's not John Rocker. He took the time to be bilingual; he spends more time with his Spanish teammates than Americans. This ain't John Rocker, but he says some John Rocker type s—-. My question is, why?"
This is the most probing moment in the entire piece — an unnamed Orioles official raising the misgivings that, I'll venture, Nelson herself shares but is afraid to, or not allowed to, say so plainly. The story is ostensibly an attempt to answer why, but after a few anecdotes from his youth and some halfhearted psychoanalysis, ESPN abandons the effort. What we're left with, then, is a story about a guy who says and does disagreeable things and who fetishizes a culture of violence that ESPN usually isn't so casual about and who is nevertheless much too "complex" to be called disagreeable. We end with a bland, self-affirming quote from Scott himself: "I prepare for the worst, hope for the best."
ESPN sure gave it to him.
Always locked and loaded [ESPN]