WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2013 - Imagine my dismay for friends across the Delaware region when I read, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that Delmon Young had been signed to a one year deal to play outfield for the Phillies. Young, playing for Detroit, was last year’s AL Championship Series MVP. But he comes with a reputation for breaking bad on and off the field.
So what can possibly go wrong?
Young is still doing penance for going on an anti-Semitic rampage in New York. Before that, in the minors, he was suspended for 50 games after hurling his bat at an umpire. There’s more, but briefly, here’s the gist, as covered by the Inquirer, a paper I used to work for:
“Young pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment after being accused of an anti-Semitic slur and tackling a man outside a New York hotel in April 2012. Major League Baseball suspended Young for seven days and ordered him to undergo anger management counseling. “
What a guy!
For some reason malcontents and delinquents gravitate to Philadelphia.
There’s word that a Detroit rabbi, Joshua Bennett, has begun the cure and declares Delmon Young kosher for Passover and for baseball, and onward on that score, turns out that Young’s agents are Jewish, Arn Tellem and Joel Wolfe. Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies general manager, was born to a Jewish mother. On the whole, life’s funny that way.
On racism, real or alleged, there has been zero tolerance. Incautious words here and there against African Americans doomed Howard Cosell, Jimmy the Greek, and Al Campanis. They never recovered and it was years of tolerance training (with Al Sharpton?) before Don Imus got back his radio/TV gig.
So why does anti-Semitism get a free ride – and a $750,000 payday? Plus there’s a $3.5 million bonus if Young speaks softly and carries a big stick.
For me it is not so much the man. It is the town.
This was the town that booed Santa. Back in 2007, the Eagles signed Michael Vick the convicted dog-torturer to quarterback the team. The scenes of what he did to those dogs are still too horrifying to stomach. He pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 21 months before the Eagles picked him up. The fans cheered as long as he completed his passes.
For his epitaph, W.C. Fields proposed, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”
As for Young, he fits right in. He’s coming to a town that’s got its own rap sheet. Philadelphia – which can’t seem to win in any other sport – is big on crime, and consistently ranks high nationally in the fields of rape, robbery, burglary, and on homicide, Philadelphia is tops, or near the top.
The town that gave us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and where Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin walked the Colonial cobblestones, today gives us an average of a murder a day. The homicide figure for 2012 rounds out at 331, a number exceeded by Detroit at 411, on a scale of dubious bragging rights.
Between you and me, when it comes to Philadelphia, people won’t say we’re in love.
As noted, I covered Philadelphia for the Inquirer for quite a few years and never got to like it at all. I remember a physician who tirelessly served the poor and the disabled in North Philadelphia for free – I said for free, like Albert Schweitzer — but there were no parking spaces so he parked anywhere he could – and for his troubles, his sacrifice, and for his humanity, he got tons of tickets, which he could not afford to pay.
I was there at his trial when he was taken off to prison in handcuffs.
They used to call places like that Sodom and Gomorrah.
I’ve got a hundred more stories where that came from and some of them I tucked into my novel Indecent Proposal here, and am indebted and grateful to the reviewer who wrote that my novelistic dislike for Philadelphia was “absolutely on the mark and delicious.” You got that right.
Hollywood, by the way, did not come near Philadelphia when it turned my book into a movie, although Philadelphia, as I once read in a promo pamphlet aimed at moviemakers – Philadelphia “offers many gritty locations for shooting.” Not an exact quote but “gritty” is the word all right.
Center City shuts down at five so that people can run for the hills before the flash mobs arrive.
So Delmon Young has found himself a home, quite where he belongs.
Jack Engelhard is a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, his memoir Escape From Mount Moriah, and Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist is Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer, bring his words to the Communities page covering all topics, with special focus on the absurdity of human behavior, and reaches around the globe.
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