May 17, 2004
Reader Mail (Pedophile/Rapist Edition)
I knew it would happen. In fact, I even warned it would happen. In writing about Roman Polanski yesterday, I said the following:
"I rarely get political on this site and I rarely state strong opinions on things other than sports and entertainment, but I will this time."
"While writing this blog, I have learned that no matter how right you think you are about something and no matter how black and white you think the issue is, there will always be someone who disagrees with you."
"It's hard to convince everyone of everything, and that's something all writers should remember when they state opinions and get feedback from readers."
Sure enough, I got plenty of e-mails yesterday from people who disagreed with at least parts of what I said about Polanski. Here are some samples, along with my responses (all of which will almost certainly lead to even more e-mails from even more people who disagree with me, which will further make it clear to me that I shouldn't talk about non-sports stuff)...
It seems obvious, to me at least, that the standing O was for Polanski's work on a brilliant film, not because he is a child molester. In the same way that baseball fans can appreciate the greatness of a Ty Cobb without condoning his vicious racism or sociopathic personality, one can appreciate the work of an artist without condoning some of his other actions.
I agree with Kruk's revulsion at Polanski's actions; I do not agree with (though I am not surprised by) his inability to distinguish the man from his work. Ezra Pound was a great poet, Martin Heidegger was a great philosopher, and Henry Ford was a great technological innovator notwithstanding that all were Nazi sympathizers; Bertolt Brecht was a great playwright notwithstanding his Communist sympathies -- I dare you to watch a good production of "The Good Woman of Szetzuan" of "Mother Courage and Her Children" and not be moved because you don't like Brecht's personal political views.
Bad people can do great things, just as good people can live their lives in mediocrity. You applaud the good and condemn the bad, and recognize that we are all a combination of both, in varying degrees.
While I believe Polanski was being honored because of his work as a filmmaker, I do not believe for a second that he would have received a standing ovation if he hadn't molested/drugged/raped a 13-year-old girl and fled the country to avoid prosecution.
Plenty of people are honored at plenty of award shows without receiving standing ovations from the entire audience. The fact that they gave one to someone who wasn't even in attendance (because he was in another country) says to me that a lot of people in the audience simply knew that he got into some trouble and that he was a controversial figure, much like my grandmother (who I quoted yesterday) thought.
I don't think these people were applauding Polanski's crime or Polanski's work, they were applauding the fact that they thought he had been "wronged" in some way. It is my belief that Polanski has not been wronged at all, and that in fact he has wronged someone else and not been punished sufficiently for it.
As for Randy's statement that "You applaud the good and condemn the bad," I suppose what I am saying is that I'd like to see a little more of the latter in regard to Roman Polanski.
I am sure I am not the only person who will e-mail totally in agreement with you about your and Kruk's comments and drawing a parallel between that situation and the Kobe Bryant case, but I will still do so.
While it is true that Kobe is innocent until proven guilty, the "Kobe flies in from Eagle, CO and has a big game" stories are a bit much. ESPN is truly eating it up and it makes me sick. Whether or not he is guilty of rape, he is certainly guilty of cheating on his wife. Seeing him with his daughter during the post-game press conference Saturday night certainly will not re-make his image as a family man, for me at least.
If Kobe is acquitted when his trial comes around, he will undoubtedly be given a huge standing ovation at the Staples Center. To paraphrase Bill Simmons, I will throw up in my mouth...just as I did when Polanski got a standing ovation.
First of all, let me just say that I won't be giving Kobe Bryant any standing ovations either. However, unlike Polanski, he did not flee the country and he is actually facing the consequences of his (alleged) actions.
Matt writes that "If Kobe is acquitted when his trial comes around..." which makes the situation totally different from Polanski's. No matter what you think about Kobe or anything else Matt wrote, I think you'd have to admit that someone who is tried and acquitted of a crime is a lot different than someone who flees the country to avoid being tried.
Also, I just wanted to touch on one major theme throughout many of these e-mails ... apparently once you come out against something like the Polanski situation, like I did yesterday, many people assume that you are sort of against "all things evil."
In other words, I got e-mails from people about any number of things that are varying degrees of wrong, from stuff that is just morally and ethically wrong to stuff that is legally wrong. Here's the thing though ... I really don't care if Kobe Bryant cheats on his wife.
I care if, by cheating on her, he rapes a woman, but that's an entirely different issue. Kobe and his wife are free to do whatever (and whomever) they want in my mind, assuming everything is between consenting adults. I don't know why, but when I saw Matt mention it in his e-mail ("Whether or not he is guilty of rape, he is certainly guilty of cheating on his wife"), I wanted to respond.
Two of my Top 10 favorite films of all time are 'Chinatown' and 'Manhattan'; and whatever Roman Polanski or Woody Allen have done in their lives before or since making those films, the works themselves stand as great artistic achievements.
I'd guess that most of those who cheered Polanski's award at the Oscars were not aware of all the sordid details of that grand jury testimony from 27 years ago--which is sworn testimony, but not necessarily fact. Until today, I'd only heard that he had fled prosecution for having sex with a teenage girl. To some, that alone isn't such a terrible thing. Others may think it is terrible, but still find his work worthy of applause and awards.
Is this so strange? Sports fans, sportswriters and athletes look the other way when teammates indulge in immoral behavior, all the time.
Kobe Bryant has been accused of raping a teenage girl whom he had just met, and look at how he is still cheered and celebrated. His teammates and some media even talk about his play, after taking trips to and from Colorado for court appearances, like it's a heroic act. Do his teammates, or the fans who cheer him, implicitly approve of rape, or even consensual sex with teenagers who work in hotels?
Haven't you tried your hardest to look the other way in the developing Bonds/BALCO scandal? Whatever Barry Bonds has done off the field (and that includes an accusation of beating his ex-wife), you really don't want to know too much, do you?
You don't approve of wife-beating or taking steroids, I assume, but you'd prefer to let Bonds' play on the field stand for itself, right?
How is the Polanski situation different?
First, let me just say that nowhere have I ever said that a movie made by someone like Polanski should be viewed for anything beyond the quality of the movie itself. I never said you shouldn't watch a movie by Polanski, I never said you shouldn't enjoy a movie by Polanski, and I never said you can't give a movie by Polanski awards and praise. I simply have a huge problem with giving the man a standing ovation based at least partly on him being controversial because of what he did many years ago.
I suppose this all comes down to whether or not you believe the standing ovation came solely for his work as a director, and not as a result of what he did or did not do with a 13-year-old girl. I choose not to believe that it's all based on his directing, but obviously many people do believe it.
Again, with Kobe Bryant, he is facing the consequences of his actions. If Kobe fled the country rather than face that, then his situation would be comparable to Polanski's. As it is, he is innocent until proven guilty. I would perhaps give the same benefit to Polanski, had he actually stayed around.
Just as I said I have no problem applauding Polanski's work as a director, I have no problem applauding Bryant's work as a basketball player. I believe what Polanski received at the Oscars went beyond that, quite clearly.
Regarding my "looking the other way" in respect to Barry Bonds ... please. Allegedly taking steroids is, in my opinion, on a completely different planet than drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl and then fleeing the country. They aren't even close, and I think it is rather silly to compare the two. If Bonds has been accused of beating his wife, I have not heard about it. If there is something to those accusations, perhaps Bonds should be brought up on charges. Until then, a rumor about him beating a woman is, again, not even on the same planet as what Polanski did.
If someone can honestly ask "how is the Polanski situation different" than Barry Bonds taking steroids, than I suppose we have to just agree to disagree. There is a chasm of thinking there that I don't think even Evel Knievel could cross.
From Steve Silver:
You know, back when Roman Polanski was awarded the Oscar, I kept returning to one very important question: how does John Kruk feel about this? Now we have our answer, as Kruk has written a timely response to Polanski's award, only 18 months after the fact in his SPORTS column.
I don't necessarily believe Polanski got a standing ovation BECAUSE of his crime; I feel that he got it both because the liberal Hollywood community feels that Polanski has been wronged by the legal system, and because he made a film, which happened to be great, about the Holocaust, a topic that the Academy can never resist.
And finally, I ask one more question: had the person molested by Polanski been not a 13-year-old girl but rather a boy of the same age, would he have gotten the standing O? Would the film have won Best Picture? Would the film have even been made? The answer to all three questions is an unquestionable HELL NO.
I would like to second Steve's comment about the absurdity of this whole discussion starting by way of a John Kruk column on ESPN.com. Still, I bash Kruk plenty, so I figured it was only fair to give him credit for saying something I agreed with.
The question of whether or not Polanski would have received similar treatment had the 13-year-old been a different gender is interesting, I suppose. However, Michael Jackson has been accused of doing similar things with young boys and I've certainly seen him applauded plenty of times by plenty of people.
By the way, this seems like as good a place as any to answer a question I got from multiple e-mailers yesterday ... the girl was 13 and Polanski was 43. I know there is some confusion about this and some people (like my grandmother) were under the impression that the two were close in age, but Polanski is and was 30 years her elder.
From an anonymous e-mailer:
The audience was cheering a great film and a great director, not the other parts of him that have anything to do with them. Just because he molested some chick doesn't make the film any less great. Seems pretty clear to me.
P.S. Kruk is an assclown.
First of all, we're in 100% agreement on the Kruk-being-an-assclown thing.
That said, here's something to think about ... if Polanski hadn't fled the country to avoid being punished for his crime(s) against a 13-year-old girl, he may not have even been able to make the movie that some people seem to think he was receiving a standing ovation for.
That may be a bit of an overstatement, since I'm not sure how many years in jail (if any) he would have received, but certainly the whole thing would have set back his directing career a bit. Or perhaps not, and I'm just being naive.
Also, who said anything about his actions making the film any less great? If I go out and murder 100 people but I am a really good painter, it doesn't make my painting any less great. However, should people give me a standing ovation when I get an award at an art show?
Roman Polanski is one of the sleeziest people who still gets a pass from too many otherwise bright people. I think that response is only slightly more incomprehensible than the fact that some people still support Bush despite his repeated lies and failures.
Now, no offense to Rich, but this is exactly why I don't get into non-sports issues on this blog much.
I say something about Roman Polanski and I get an e-mail bashing George Bush. And I got several of these; e-mails using Polanski to branch off into other areas for ranting. This is all fine and good and I agreed with a lot of the stuff people ranted about, but if I wanted to discuss George Bush, I would discuss George Bush, you know?
Finally ... I urge everyone who finds themselves interested in this discussion to go to The Smoking Gun and read for yourself about Polanski. I suspect that the things you feel about the situation right now may be different once you read the actual documents related to the situation.
I know for me, what little I knew about Roman Polanski was certainly not factual and my thoughts on him changed dramatically after reading about what he did.
Back to baseball tomorrow, I promise.
New article at The Hardball Times: News, Notes and Quotes (May 18, 2004)
Los Angeles (Alvarez) +120 over Philadelphia (Padilla)
St. Louis (Morris) -110 over New York (Glavine)
Arizona (Johnson) -140 over Atlanta (Hampton)
New York (Vazquez) -155 over Anaheim (Sele)
Chicago (Garland) -130 over Cleveland (Durbin)
Total to date: -$790
W/L record: 43-59 (0-1 yesterday for -100.)
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