MLB on Jackson

Does this give me license to go off topic and dive into a Posnanskian-length Michael Jackson essay when I get some time later today?

The year was 1976.

Farrah Fawcett had the poster that was on walls everywhere.

Michael Jackson was fronting “The Jacksons” — as the band started off on its own a year after leaving Motown.

Johnny Bench and Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine repeated as World Series champs, and this time it wasn’t even close — a powerhouse sweep of the Yankees, following a three-game sweep of the Phillies for the National League pennant.

American icons.

Farrah is gone now. She passed away Thursday from cancer.

Michael is gone now. He passed away at almost the same time due to cardiac arrest.

Sparky Anderson’s team was one of the mightiest in Major League Baseball history, arguably in the top five, loaded with legends and a Hall of Fame manager.

She was a symbol of beauty and then courage for so many. He was the King of Pop, fallen from this decade but nonetheless an icon for countless millions who always held hope he would find a graceful comeback, somehow, that would make us watch him again. You remembered or you were looking it up on Thursday, as hearts ached.

Nationals center fielder Willie Harris’ heart ached. He was the reason that Michael Jackson’s music filled Nationals Park throughout his team’s 9-3 victory over Boston Thursday night. It was a somber and sad celebration, just as there will be Michael music during the Dodgers’ Friday Night Fireworks event.

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  1. ditmars1929 said...

    No, Craig, it doesn’t give you license to go off topic later on.  Plenty of other news sites are reporting on a drug addled homosexual child molester.  Just stick to baseball, please.

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Oh well. I’ll just have to hang out in my co-workers’ doorway and share my unified theory 1980s pop music with them.

  3. Ogilvy said...

    The drug addled and homosexual are par for the course for entertainers, of course, the molestering children thing is pretty horrific. Anyways, lets hear it Craig, ditmar can skip that post.

  4. Jimmy said...

    ditmars, why did you feel the need to lump in “homosexual” right between “drug addled” and “child molester”?

  5. Richard in Dallas said...

    Michael was a severely flawed human being, to be sure, but his talent was at a level with Elvis, Lennon and McCartney, Steven Spielberg, and the like.  There will be no more Thriller videos, no next generation moonwalk, no “Rockin Robin” and no more Neverland.  I believe he was a tormented soul who, in a way, was fortunate to find the sweet relief of death at an early age…..

  6. MooseinOhio said...

    Farrah Fawcet hung on my wall next to Red Sox gear and I had a boom box that wore out several tapes that featured Michael’s music that was also used to listen to games.  It is often hard to separate the childhood memories from the present day realities and despite that fact that Farrah aged and Michael’s declined in so many way I will choose to remember them in their more idealistic states.

  7. lar said...

    Jonah Keri probably has the best take of Michael Jackson that I’ve read so far, touching on the joy that he brought to billions of people, the pain/trauma that he caused to others, and the immense psychological beating he took as a kid that led to both aspects of his being: The Complicated Legacy of Michael Jackson.

    I’m with others: There’s a lot to dislike and hate about what Michael Jackson became, but he did bring a lot of joy to many people’s lives (both directly and indirectly). Probably more than any of us could ever hope to even imagine, let alone replicate. There’s infinite time to settle on exactly how it all balances out cosmically, but there’s no reason to completely ignore his positive contributions. So let’s try to be positive at least for a couple of days.

  8. Jack Marshall said...

    Go for it, Craig. Jackson is a horrific example of the ravages of child-exploitation by parents who see talented kids as income centers. His folks sold his childhood, and he paid the price. There sure are a lot of parallels with sports, but I’m eager to read your unified theory. Still, lets go easy on MJ. He gave an awful lot of pleasure to the world, and was a unique talent, despite being damaged goods almost from the beginning.

  9. ditmars1929 said...

    Just being factual, Jimmy, not homophobic, if I’m properly interpreting what you’re trying to say.  I sincerely apologize if I offended you and J.W.

    And to the other kind posters, MJ was immensely talented, nobody can possibly argue with that.  But his freakish lifestyle sort of cancels that out, doesn’t it?

  10. J.W. said...

    “His folks sold his childhood, and he paid the price…Still go easy on MJ.”

    Isn’t the problem that he wasn’t alone in paying the price? Isn’t it possible that at least two children paid the price as well? I’m all for withholding judgment and giving the benefit of the doubt, and presuming innocence, but I’m sure Jack Marshall and Craig and really all of us can attest to the fact that the result of a trial isn’t always the last word on an issue. In the absense of absolute evidence, all are free to make their own judgments on whether or not Michael Jackson sexually abused children. But if we do come down on the side of believing that he did, in fact, abuse at least two children, then isn’t it incumbent upon us not to support his music and not to shed tears about his passing? Craig said the following: “Basically, if you avoid violence, cruelty and the mistreatment of kids, I’m probably going to still buy your product even if I wouldn’t seek you out at a party.” If we believe that Michael Jackson molested children, then he doesn’t pass the test, does he? I read Jonah Keri’s piece, and the Slate article he links to. I am aware of the horror inflicted on Michael Jackson as a child. I refuse, however, to accept that as an excuse for sexually abusing a child. Like I said, if you believe he did not abuse anyone, that is your right. But I’d be curious to hear about your thinking, Jack Marshall, about this issue. If you believe (and you may not) that Jackson molested children, then why do you propose going easy on him, all the while going quite hard on Manny Ramirez and others who display a lack of good character?

  11. ecp said...

    Craig, I have no objections if you decide to opine at length, a la Poz, on the subject of MJ.  Just please don’t say anything like Chad Ochocinco did about yesterday being “worse than 9/11” because of the losses of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

  12. Craig Calcaterra said...

    ECP—please tell me that Johnson didn’t say that.  Dear lord, that man’s an idiot.

    J.W. (and whoever): I don’t think it’s inconsistent to (a) have sympathy for MJ as a result of the abuse he went through at the hands of his father; (b) feel scorn and refuse to forgive him for him for the things he did to other children when he grew up; and (c) still absolutely love his music.

    Building off of something I said in a comment somewhere yesterday, when it comes to celebrities, I don’t buy the notion that Hollywood and the sports world tries to sell which holds that if you want to be a fan you have to go all-in. 

    Jackson was a pitiful, shameful, and immenseley talented figure, and I don’t know that it’s too hard to make those views mesh in a coherent fashion.

  13. ditmars1929 said...

    In support of J.W., you’d think that the man who got his childhood sold out by his parents would be EXTRA sensitive to NOT ruining another’s.  Apparently, Mr. Marshall disagrees.

    OK, let’s get back to baseball!  Yanks/Mets in another very very tired subway series, but I have to say, “Go Yankees!!!”

    And, JW, I really didn’t mean to offend you previously.

  14. Joao said...

    In defense of Ocho Cinco, he quickly realized it was stupid, that it was an emotional reaction, walked it back, and said he was sorry.

  15. tadthebad said...

    OK, Craig.  I hear and agree with most of what you wrote about celebrities and appreciating them for the entertainment they provide, and not necessarily anything else.  Still, you did write: “Basically, if you avoid violence, cruelty and the mistreatment of kids, I’m probably going to still buy your product even if I wouldn’t seek you out at a party.”  So, how do you make that jive with your obvious appreciation of MJ?  Do you have second-thoughts about that statement?  Do you rationalize it by not actually buying any MJ products (which, I think, would be side-stepping the issue a bit since you still enjoy his music)?

    I’m genuinely curious about this b/c there’s all sorts of a**holes whose work I enjoy.  But when it comes to mistreatment of kids, well, I suppose I have come to a point in my life where it is very difficult to overlook those types of transgressions.

  16. J.W. said...


    I meant to say this earlier: no apology is needed, but it’s greatly appreciated and very cool of you. 

    Craig, I hear what you’re saying and it makes sense to me. But I still think (and this isn’t really the point I made before, but anyway) that he may not necessarily be worthy of the tears of strangers, and while it’s understandable to hold the three perspectives you mentioned above, the one questionable stance (I think) would be to allow love of his music to erase the wrongs he (may or may not have) committed.

  17. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Tad: I guess what it boils down to is that I’m unwilling to shed any tears for Jackson. When he was alive I was unwilling to buy any of his products post-molestation business. I was unwilling to listen to his p.r. rebop.  If something new arose, I would have been decidedly skeptical of whatever his position happened to be.  I won’t turn off a demonstably awesome song of his that came on the radio, however, because to deny something like that is silly and rather self-defeating.

    To put it in the context of what I said in the quote you note, I’m not going to turn off the television just because Brett Myers pitches (though if there’s another game I’d reserve the right to switch) but I’d never seek out his autograph, or buy his jersey, or listen to an interview of his, or give him much the benefit of the doubt if something came up about him appropriate for comment on this blog. 

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not in the total boycott business with these guys because, in Jackson’s case, there is something that he did that I can appreciate without having to endorse the man (i.e. his music) and in Myers’ case, there are 17 other guys playing any given game he’s in, and I can pretty much ignore his ass (and root against him of course).  Both of them are people I’d never want to associate with, even if I had the opportunity.

    I hope that’s not still inconsistent, but to the extent that it is, it’s simply because it’s sometimes hard to draw bright lines between the good and the bad things human beings do.

  18. ecp said...

    Yeah, Craig, I’m serious.  He really said it.

    Oh, and Joao, from what I heard, he only gave that little bit of a back-off at the point when the initial rumors of MJ’s death were denied.  It was more like, OK, he’s not dead, sorry I overreacted, that was a dumb thing to say.  It was a qualified retraction.

  19. John Northey said...

    If one is abused as a child it does lead to a drastically increased likelihood of becoming an abuser when you get older.  There is no question on this, sadly enough.

    I suspect Jackson’s parents never got him the treatment he needed, and once an adult he didn’t seek it out as he should’ve.  The difference between someone who takes responsibility (seeks treatment for childhood traumas and does whatever they can to avoid putting it onto a new generation) and those who don’t. 

    You can feel sorry for Jackson and also be mad at him quite easily as it is no excuse, just an explanation.

  20. Joao said...


    Not sure I agree.  Here are his actual comments:

    “Okay, first Mrs. Fawcett now Mr. Jackson, please tell me that this is a mistaken rumor, if not this is just as sad as 9/11…about 4 hours ago”

    “okay not as bad as 911, its sad period, both situations my goodness people, they just said he is okay in the hospital…about 3 hours ago”

    “The 9/11 was a bit over the top, i am just in an emotional state right now, bare with me while i regroup people, be back in 10 minutes…about 3 hours ago”

    “Sorry 85 million times, today sucks man, i still have my jacket with the zippers on it, wow…about 3 hours ago”

  21. tadthebad said...


    That was well-explained in an inconsistent sort-of-way.  Seriously, though, I share your perspective, but I find myself reminding people today of the man’s alleged horrors as those same people fall over themselves praising his music,
    which hasn’t been any good in over a decade now.  Nevertheless, I may be placing my Thriller LP under lock and key in the hopes that’s it worth some decent money in the future.  I’m no music buff – what kind of prospect/tradeable chip do I have in a Thriller LP, anyways?

  22. Steve said...

    Craig, Milwaukee has a real inferiority complex because of Chicago.  The two cities were comparable until the mid-1800’s when the population and industry exploded to the south.  You won’t find a more ornery, insecure bunch of people than the ones who live in Milwaukee.

    I grew up in Madison, and I have to deal with sighs and eye rolling when I even bring up the name of the town.  You’d gather from the people of Milwaukee that they are the only ones who truly understand how the world works (very black and white) and the hippy liberals to the west only cause problems.

    You really see it in the way that Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are treated in town.  Braun signed a long-term deal at the beginning of last season where Prince has made it pretty clear that he’s going to test free agency the first chance he gets.  Prince is the more durable player and better hitter, but Braun is treated like a God because he made a commitment to the team and city.  People won’t acknowledge that it was good financial move to accept largest contract for a player with less than one year of service time.

  23. Jack Marshall said...

    Regarding comparisons between Manny and Jacko (and there’s a match I never thought I’d be contemplating): Jackson is responsible for his own actions regarding child molestation (yes, I think it’s almost certain that he was a serial abuser). That he, as an adult, is responsible does not alter the fact that his conduct was a likely bi-product of his own abuse and cruel upbringing, which has been fairly well documented. As a performer, Jackson should be judged on his talent and professionalism, which, when he was physically well, was pretty much beyond reproach. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has no character requirements, given what the profession is like and the people in it, this is hardly a surprise.  I can respect Jackson as a performer but not as a person, and I can deplore his conduct as an individual while recognizing that he was, in great part, a victim.

    Manny, while also immensely talented in his field, is emphatically NOT admirable in every aspect of his play, and in assessing the relevance of character to talent and acievements in entertainment, this is key. His character issues have led him to be unavailable to his team (as in the suspension); he has, in many case, not been a good team mate; he has behaved unprofessionally on the field (hustle, concentration lapses, undignified conduct) to the detriment of his team. While none of Manny’s non-baseball conduct (such as, if Boston writers are to be believed, not honoring pledges to give to charities and his high school athletic program) comes anywhere close to Jackson’s in degree of loathsomeness, his baseball-related conduct is worse than Jackson’s music-related conduct. If craft-related character and non-craft-related character,added together, form a kind of character OPS, Manny’s and Jacko’s might be pretty close. (I’d argue that, given their more general adulation as sports heroes, athletes’ non-craft-related character is still somewhat craft-related, but that’s too complicated to go into now). Personally, I don’t admire or like either of them. I have more respect for Jackson as a professional than I do Manny. I think, off the field or stage, Manny is the more likable individual but the less worthy professional.

  24. Jake said...

    ditmars… I too tripped over the “homosexual” in the middle of all the other adjectives. 

    What if the description were “drug added, red-headed child molester”? 

    To me, the non-sequitur of the second descriptor is the same in both cases.

  25. Joao said...


    If Jackson was known to have molested only red-headed children, it would not be a non-sequitur.  I took the original comment to mean that he was a molestor of male children, and the author of the post’s subsequent follow-up convinced me he meant to be only factual.

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