Thursday, July 26, 2018

Josh Hader is Okay, John Middlekauff is Not

By Kevin Beane

I've recently discovered a great feature on Awful Announcing called This Week in Hot Takes, which features just that. Compiled by one Andrew Bucholtz, the one that caught my attention this week was John Middlekauff, a writer for The Athletic San Francisco, defending Josh Hader, the Brewers pitcher whose racist and homophobic tweets were unearthed recently. "Unearthed," in this case, meaning he tweeted them when he was 17. He's 24 now.

Or rather, not so much defending Hader, as burying the people who brought Hader's old tweets to light. "(W)hat kinda loser to you have to be also to go back to 2011 and look for tweets? #ABigOne." he asked and answered.

Middlekauff has since deleted that tweet, but not others about the issue; he is still doubling down. When someone asked him at what age we should start taking racists seriously, he says, "I dunno man. I don't take twitter very seriously so your asking the wrong guy. Should he have tweeted (of course not) — should this define him. Foh. He was 17. Is he a racist homophobe? I dunno, neither does anyone on here that's for damn sure."

I'm reminded of a quote from The Big Lebowski that seems to fit Middlekauff pretty well here: You're not wrong. You're just an a**hole.

First of all, Middlekauff seems to imply that comments made on Twitter ought not be taken seriously. Well, on what fora should racist or homophobic comments count, if not on Twitter? In blog posts? Best man toasts? Handwritten letters to your girlfriend back home?

Second of all, no one except a few lunatics are going to do anything but forget about this and move on shortly. Because Middlekauff's point about Hader being 17 at the time is right, and everyone with half a brain realizes that. This isn't a groundbreaking point he's making. As spokesperson for all the shrill leftists, I give Middlekauff my guarantee that if Hader isn't in the league in five years, it won't be because of this. The MLB's response of sensitivity training and basically nothing else speaks to this the obviousness of his point. He received an ovation upon his return. He'll be fine.

But we still have to call this stuff out. We must. To treat it like no big deal is to endorse it as no big deal. Racism and homophobia are big deals. We can believe him that he was just an ignorant kid and doesn't feel that way. We still need to check. Plenty of racists and homophobes at 17 are still racists and homophobes at 24. We must never stop naming and shaming homophobia and racism and hope for any progress on that front. Such attitudes will not go away on their own.

Speaking of taking people at their word, I'd like to end this column with a bit of advice for Middlekauff. I will take him at his word that he thinks racism and homophobia are bad. But when you are moved to comment on the situation not by the racist and homophobic tweets themselves, but by the need to call the people who brought the tweets to the fore "losers," you run the risk of creating the impression that you're not just a devil's advocate contrarian looking at this from all sides, but that you are sympatico with the tweets themselves.

It's fair for people to ask, "why is this the most important part of the story to him?"

Be mindful of that. Cheers.

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