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The Clue Train

by Jim Provenzano
Sports Complex, The Bay Area Reporter
Jan. 13, 2000

It was December 1999.

I was riding the #7 train to Queens, where I was born. With me was a queer with AIDS, who was apartment shopping. Next to us was some kid with purple hair, a black welfare mom with a kid in a stroller too busy strangling his Pokemon to notice the funny faces I was making.

Across the car was a sleeping homeless guy, a Puerto Rican couple in a matching pair of puffy down vests, a Pakistani guy with a bag full of toys from KayBee, a transit cop, and some loud German tourists in shorts.

On the floor of the train car was a newspaper with the face of a big lunky baseball player on it.

What a pleasure it was to be in the city of my birth at the moment when a chaw-spittin' bigot from a city with a baseball team named after a bunch of slaughtered Native Americans got basically put through the wringer for pretty much maligning anyone who wasn't like him, particularly the variety pack of residents of the city of my birth.

How shocked everyone was, or pretended to be. The outrage. The scandal. A white Southern baseball player hates blacks and gays. Stop the presses.

But the presses, of course, did not stop. In fact, they could have paid the lunky bigoted baseball player, since they sold so many more papers by reporting on what the bigoted lunky baseball player said.

That's because the presses are owned by the same rich white men who own the baseball player's team, and the network that broadcasts the athletic endeavors of said baseball player.

Now, we all know what scions of justice and objectivity these papers are. Take Sports Illustrated. Note its proud history of reporting gay and lesbian struggles in sports, such as issue #_ … Oh well.

Take the New York Post. Always a friend to our community, who could forget their front page coverage of an ACT UP demo: GAY RAGE! Or their supportive coverage of Madonna's ambisexual music video, "Justify My Love": WHAT A TRAMP!

In splaying the lunky bigot's mug across their pages, the Post posted a tired pun while resurrecting antique terminology in using PUNK, thus being homophobic to a homophobe (Besides the well-worn music reference, punk's an old slang version of fag, or a young man who sexually … well, in days of yore, I think they called them cabin boys).

And all those honorable "aw, shucks" sports writers who feigned disdain at such statements, or offered a "tsk, tsk" as if they had never heard such talk on a diamond or in the dugout, were duly ready to crank out the publicist's releases about "apologies" and "retractions," before asking any members of the gay community to respond, and only after the entire buffet of bigotry had been reduced to the essentials, which were just about race, since, well, you know, that's more important, since the lunky bigoted baseball player has to work with blacks and Latinos and Dominican guys, not homos.

This needs to be cured, they said. This needs to be stopped. This isn't just a tiny pimple on the face of a big ugly corrupt corporate empire run by rich white men who are too busy buying the presidency for the son of a former president who just sold a house that had a "whites only" clause. This is an isolated incident, an anomaly, a freak.

Because of course there isn't a trace of racism, sexism or homophobia in the good 'ole sport of baseball. Just because black leagues were demolished by white owners embarrassed by their superiority, just because women's leagues were eliminated, just because players like Billy Bean and Glenn Burke basically had their careers poisoned by the stinking offal of hatred and pig-headed idiocy that embodies American sport doesn't mean there's a problem.

Yes, what a strange case it was, a baseball player talking like a bigot.

How unusual.

And I seem to recall, after being poked and prodded and analyzed and examined, that what the lunky bigoted baseball player needed was a change of place, a Metro Pass to the clue train.

Because sometime, the karmic gods will put directly in your path that which you misunderstand most, until you get it, and grow up.

It was December 2000.

I was riding the #7 train to Queens, where I was born. With me was a queer with AIDS, who'd bought kitchen stuff for his new apartment. Next to us was some kid with orange hair, a black former welfare mom with a kid in a stroller making funny faces at me.

Across the car was a sleeping homeless guy, a Puerto Rican couple in a matching pair of puffy down vests with a baby, a Pakistani guy with a bag full of groceries from D'Agostino's, a transit cop, and some Japanese tourists in shorts.

Further down the train car, all alone, grumbling and spitting, his eyes rolling back into his head every now and then, was some big lunky baseball player who'd recently been traded.

I guess he was late for work.

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