Insulting fans is not worth the falloutCall it Fingergate or whatever you want but Kim Byung-hyun’s behavior in the third game of the divisional playoff series between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s was no Kodak moment. As the story goes, when the name of the Red Sox closer was announced during the pregame introduction, fans in Beantown booed him ― and that is when BK’s middle finger sprung into action. The matter was supposedly smoothed out after the game when BK issued a formal apology, but he did not appear in the next three games.
If we had a holiday for each day of the year an athlete screwed up, we would have plenty of time to watch the games. We have not yet had a serial killer but the potential is there. Serial polygamy is common, although few athletes claim to be Mormon. Drugs and alcohol are in wide use without the endorsement contracts and big bucks. Athletes need no invitation to screw up; they can make a mess on their own with no provocation. Whether booing a loathed opponent or a hated player on the home team, the fans’ right to make a racket comes with the price of the ticket.
Among the NFL crowds, noise has become part of the game plan; the stadium din can be loud enough to drown out the play calls of the opposing team’s quarterback. When opposing defensive players call for noise, raising both of their arms as if they were conductors of the New York Philharmonic, the crowd roars. It is just part of the game. What is also part of the game are the insults and rudeness by the all-too-eager fans.
Ask baseball outfielders how they feel about the constant barrage of coins and other objects being thrown at them. Baseball needs its own version of the Patriot missile to take out the fan-launched objects. Ask the players how many times they have been called undesirable names. Fans get away with almost anything.
Hard as it may be, athletes have to deal with the riffraff in a professional way. You know the saying: It comes with the territory. If even just once they lose it and shout back, the media put them through the wringer. Look at what happened to John Rocker, the former closing pitcher in the major leagues, who made disparaging remarks about gays. Maybe it was all the flak he took afterward, but his career went down the toilet.
I have only sympathy for these guys because they are human beings whose gifts have led to non-stop scrutiny.
Having said all that, a guy like BK who has been playing in the majors for some time should have known better. It is possible that he miscalculated the degree to which his extended digit would be found insulting to fans in the United States, because in Korea giving the finger is not such a big deal. Still, he should have kept his composure and ignored the overexcited fans’ insults. Especially in Beantown, where baseball mania and media attention are rivaled only by those of New York, actions should be measured more carefully. After all, there is a reason why the seasoned Red Sox player, Manny Ramirez, exercises a self-imposed no-talk policy toward the media.
If Boston decides to use BK against the New York Yankees in the championship series, he needs to do a heck of a job and pray that fans’ memories are short. Fortunately, they usually are when you give them a championship. As it is, more than just saving a game is at stake.
by Brian Lee