- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

The free speech police are being overworked in Boston and Denver this week.A reporter with the Boston Herald was offended by an anti-war-protester bumper sticker posted on the locker of Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin, and then, as if on cue, many of the other deep sports thinkers there felt an obligation to be offended either by the reporter or Timlin or the curse of Babe Ruth.In Denver, another relief pitcher, Todd Jones of the Rockies, was asked to critique the artistic implications of “Take Me Out,” a Broadway play whose plot concerns a gay baseball player.Jones took the bait and made the following observation to the Denver Post: “I wouldn’t want a gay guy being around me. It’s got nothing to do with being scared. That’s the problem. All these people say he’s got all these rights. Yeah, he’s got rights or whatever, but he shouldn’t be walking around proud.”All too many Americans have a pathological need to express their opinions on subjects that extend well beyond their range of expertise. The know-it-all is a quintessential American.Timlin, described by the reporter as a “Southern neo-conservative,” is free to be in favor of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The reporter is equally free to pop a blood vessel before he sits down to peck away on his keyboard against his ideological opposite.A big fat whatever is warranted in either case, considering the absence of background material that could provide muscle to their views.Next topic. The whale? Thank you. Appreciate it, fellows.Timlin probably can explain the essence of the curve ball a whole lot better than the essence of fundamentalists beating their chests and slashing themselves in an exercise of religious freedom in Iraq. The reporter probably can recite the batting averages of the Red Sox a whole lot quicker than all the religious factions in Iraq.This is not to suggest that it is somehow bad form for a person to step outside his or her box. This is merely a note of leeriness around all the pseudo-experts lurking in our celebrity-obsessed culture, many of whom are granted a voice only because of their fame.Perhaps a few really know their subject matter.More than a few, however, appear to lean whichever way it is fashionable in their narrow world.Martin Sheen, who plays a president on television, seems earnest enough in his extreme-left vision of the world. Good for him.Yet his level of achievement is not commensurate with his national platform.He has made his living pretending to be others, after all. He has a high school diploma. And? And? He has an interest an international affairs. So let’s assume he reads a lot.If he were not a celebrity, however, members of the news media, a pompous, cliquish group for the most part, would ignore his vast insights unless he happened to be randomly interviewed during a protest.President Sheen would have no chance of ever being this omnipresent well of knowledge, and nothing against President Sheen.At the end of the day, his views, though granted more prominence than most, are no more illuminating than the views of the guy down the street.To look at it another way, few would call a plumber to learn how to treat a stomach ulcer. Yet in the loony bin of the 24/7 news cycle and pop culture, in matters of life and death, President Sheen is solicited to provide the full weight of his geopolitical experience.Has Sheen ever played a doctor on either the small or big screen? If so, maybe he can help with a stomach ulcer.As much as the self-respecting members of the media would protest otherwise, their fixation with celebrity punditry is in the family of thought of James Lipton, the bun-kissing host of “Inside the Actors Studio.” Lipton, to his credit, makes no pretense of what he is and thus is more honorable than those who hide behind a transparent sheet of respect while gleaning precious political guidance from Janeane Garofalo.Predictably, the paths leading out of the sports world tend to be littered with landmines, most often in the two favorite social subjects of the day: race and sexuality.Rasheed Wallace provided a safe alternative as well as a catchphrase this week.”Both teams played hard,” he said, five times in all to five questions.Wallace paid with a fine, the pitcher in Colorado with a halfhearted apology.People do what they do behind closed doors, much of it inventive, and none of it anyone’s business, as long as the parties are consenting adults.Thanks to Jerry Springer and his daytime ilk, the range of expressions in the bedroom seems almost infinite. Americans tend to like the don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy, mostly because the orbit of sexual experiences involves a huge number of Americans, heterosexual and gay alike.Jones, the Colorado pitcher, expressed a certain discomfort with the notion of a gay ballplayer, just as he might be taken aback by the one-time pursuits of Marv Albert or the former publicist with Marla Maples who was relieved of his duties after he was caught relieving the beauty of her high heels.Typically enough, Jones is being characterized in the national media as an unenlightened Neanderthal, and maybe he is.But his objection also emanates from the American attitude to be both prurient and private around all sex-related things. Jones might not necessarily care if a ballplayer is gay. He just might prefer not to know.There is a distinction, and the distinction, like it or not, is made by all, in one sexual form or another.Ask yourself: Do you really want to know the sexual proclivities of those around you?Be careful. It just might jar the way you perceive them.Look at it this way: There probably are a couple of heterosexual ballplayers who like to visit the neighborhood dominatrix, whereupon they are spanked, whipped and humiliated. This is a different kind of activity, too over the top for some, although it fits with the no-pain, no-gain philosophy of sports.The difference also applies to men in stress-relieving diapers, the focus of one of the most educational daytime talk shows ever.A basketball buddy, David Jones of Ashburn, no relation to Todd, recently relayed the tidbit of one of his workers who likes women in the 350-pound range. Okay. Hmm.See how tricky it gets with our puritanical roots?One ballplayer is gay, another likes prostitutes, and still another likes to be bound and gagged.What is your comfort level?The gay guy is cool, but the bound-and-gagged guy is too much.You could work with a man in a stress-relieving diaper, but it might be tough to work with a man in a stress-relieving diaper who is involved in a swinging relationship with his wife.Everybody has a story and an opinion, and in the 24-hour cable news era, there seems to be this growing urge to shout out all of it, even if so much of it is junk food to the brain.Cloning, anyone?Quick. Let’s call Sean Penn on the topic and run it past a ballplayer.

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