Through the Looking Glass

But is Joe's half empty or half full?

Sep 12, 2007 at 4:00 am
Hey Joe: Are you an optimist or a pessimist? You seem like a nice enough guy, but you sure do complain a lot.
Dakota Fanning, Los Angeles, California

If having a firm belief that right will overcome wrong means I'm an optimist, then I'm an optimist. If I call shots in support of my belief, maybe it is taken as complaining. My perception of pessimism would have to be directed at the news media. Seemingly, it feeds off morbidity — sort of how bad news is good news and good news is no news. To me, a complainer is a selfish, fault-finding individual who lives a miserable life and finds a way to convert good into something dismal, such as if asked how one is doing. Their reply is usually, "Aw, I'm all right, but it could be better." Or if addressed with, "It's a beautiful day," their answer is, "Oh, yes it is, but just a little bit too hot." The word "but" always plays an essential role as a means to an end — kind of like me seemingly being a nice enough guy but one who complains a lot.

Now, this part of the question trips me up, because I'm either a nice guy or I'm not. What must be understood is that the column I write is called Ask A Negro Leaguer — meaning a black — and controversial questions as well as the differences between whites and blacks are often brought up. I'm judged based upon my answers. My position on this? Optimism! And I refuse to think I am right all the time, because that would be unrealistic. I've drawn criticism from both blacks and whites.

The year is now 2007, and gone is the cry "Liberty for All." During the American Revolution, Crispus Attucks, a black, was the first man killed while fighting for the cause of that principle even though at the time, he was not free. And neither are blacks and whites free from the labels "inferior" and "superior" — that's an issue that needs to be addressed. If it's continuously ignored and not rightfully approached by both parties, it will hang above the country like an albatross. If change is to be realized, the time is now.

Recently, I wrote an article on Michael Vick. No matter how great his accomplishments, I voiced my concern about how vicious dogfighting is and how disgusted I am by his involvement. I even went a step further to say that he "made his bed hard" and now he must lay in it. At this point, though, because of how he stepped up and accepted responsibility without implicating anyone and even apologized to the nation, I love and respect him more than before. Apparently, there are others who feel differently. They want him totally destroyed. Like dogs trained to destroy each other, people who teach hatred are just as destructive.

Vick's confession should set a precedent. Despite his crime, a compassionate news media could make him a drum major for "right" minus a severe penalty. Had the commander-in-chief exhibited his honesty, there would be no Iraq conflict. He would have been a standard-bearer, and the people following his lead could have provided the steps for right to overcome wrong.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn?t know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman?s Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry?s most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they?d arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to [email protected]. If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.