In my previous post, I wrote about my love of baseball.
No sooner had a I written it than Manny Ramirez – that highly talented, hulking, crazy-eyed freak show on the LA Dodgers – got himself banned for fifty games for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
There’s a whole debate over why certain efforts to gain an edge – popping fistfuls of “vitamins” or sleeping in oxygen tents – are ok, but injecting a liquid is a punishable offense. We can look deeper and examine the themes of hypocrisy, American hyper-competitiveness, hero worship, and misguided priorities. But I’ll leave that to the sports bloggers.
What I found interesting is that when the news broke, it was “Manny” this and “Manny” that. It reinforced my observation that white sports stars tend to be referred to by their last names. Hispanic and black athletes, however, are often called by their first names.
If this is true (and the evidence is only anecdotal), is it a sign of disrespect or a display of affection? Does it mean anything at all?
I first noted this about a decade ago when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were in their epic homerun race. The references to “Sammy” were ubiquitous, while I don’t recall anyone calling the St. Louis slugger “Mark.”
Similarly, in debates of greatest pitchers of recent history, there’s a lot of talk about Clemens, Johnson, Maddux… and Pedro (as in Martinez). Even when the white athlete has an uncommon moniker (I’m looking at you, Chipper Jones), he usually gets the last-name treatment. That’s not always the case with, say, the very troubled Ramirez (as we see here).
Perhaps this is all just overanalysis. But at the very least, maybe some sociology grad student out there can use my observation as the basis for a dissertation. Just give me credit for the idea.