Jesse Jackson can sniff out a headline story for himself from a million miles away.
Although it is hard to believe that anyone still pays attention to a race-baiter and anti-Semite like Jackson, he nevertheless fired off a letter to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig urging him to pull the 2011 All Star Game out of Arizona.
And sports talk shows obligingly gave Jackson center stage by making his letter the focal point of their arguments for and against S.B. 1070
"The Arizona law will have a devastating impact on the integrity and public image of Major League Baseball. Imagine if players or their families are stopped and interrogated by law enforcement—not just during all-star week, but during any games—spring training (where half of the teams locate in Arizona) and regular season played in Arizona."
You can always count on Jackson for a good laugh.
Baseball's "integrity and public image" will not suffer if it does not take a position on S.B. 1070. Baseball and immigration politics, as Selig knows but has not yet publicly announced, don't mix. What Arizona does in its state house doesn't have any effect on the baseball diamond.
Displaying the depth of his malevolence, Jackson in his statement chose to ignore S.B. 1070's "reasonable suspicion" proviso.
Since it is improbable that any law enforcement officer will have "reasonable suspicion" that a major league player is in Arizona illegally, he's unlikely to ask for identification.
Naturally, Jackson drags Jackie Robinson's hallowed name into his muck although for the life of me I can't see where he fits in.
Jackson's call for a boycott of baseball's mid-summer classic, fourteen months into the future, is another mystery.
Why not call out basketball's Phoenix Suns, hockey's Phoenix Coyotes or the Pepsi Co, Inc (owner of Frito Lay which manufactures Tostitos corn chips) which will host the January 2011 BCS Fiesta Bowl college football championship game that will occur six months before the All Star game.
(No more Pepsi—ever!)
Jackson must have figured that making a stink about baseball would generate more press coverage for him than a similar assault on hockey.
Over these past days, I have listened or read hundreds of individual opinions on S.B. 1070. What I have come up with to evaluate them is this simple measurement: if you live in a border state, then I will consider what you have to say. Otherwise, please shut up.
Jackson, therefore, is eliminated as having a valid opinion.
Using my same residency yardstick, I also dismissed the perennially angry New York Times African-American sports columnist William C. Rhoden.
In his rant this week, Rhoden wrote:
"Selig can remind his fans, those who support the Arizona legislation and those who oppose it, that close to 30 percent of major league players were born elsewhere. That these international players help provide the strength of the game. That it is unthinkable that they should feel in any way unwelcome." [Selig Can Send Message on Arizona Immigration Law, by William C. Rhoden, New York Times, May 3, 2010]
Rhoden writes from baseball-crazy New York which has more than its share of the 30 percent figure he cites. The Mets roster includes about 50 percent and the Yankees 30 percent foreign-born, many of them like Mariano Rivera the most popular players on the team.
For Rhoden to speculate that baseball players in New York, Arizona or Pennsylvania for that matter might "feel in any way unwelcome" is utter nonsense.
Rhoden's column was one of thousands written thoughtlessly, intended to keep the pot stirred without any effort to research the law or what is more important to understand Arizona's illegal immigration crisis.
One border state resident's opinion, Adrian Gonzalez, does interest me. Gonzalez plays first base for the San Diego Padres. Born in San Diego but raised in Tijuana, Gonzalez has threatened to boycott the All Star game.
Gonzalez, chosen for the 2008 and 2009 All Star game, is one of baseball's better players. If he wants to make a personal statement by staying away, that's okay with me.
S.B. 1070 offends Gonzalez. According to him:
"If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I'll probably not play in the All Star Game. Because it's a discriminating law."
Putting aside for the moment Gonzalez's presumptuousness in assuming that he will be chosen, the painful reality (for him) is that no one but the most rabid Padre fan cares if he goes or not.
The National League has plenty of excellent first basemen including baseball's best, Albert Pujols (Dominican-born and wisely silent on S.B. 1070) as well as Americans Prince Fielder, Todd Helton, Ryan Howard and Lance Berkman.
A more pressing question about Gonzalez's commitment: Why doesn't he boycott all Padre regular season games in Arizona against the Diamondbacks for the balance of 2010 and the first half of 2011?
That one isn't hard to answer. Under the terms of his contract, Gonzalez could be subject to heavy fines for refusing to play. Since the All Star game is merely an exhibition, Gonzalez can skip it, as many players have done in previous years, without explanation.
Rumor has it that Selig is calling the players' union, owners and trusted advisors to help him reach a decision.
If you ask me, it's a no-brainer with an easy out.
Selig simply has to say that baseball cannot and will not take a position on state legislation. Although he may not want to say this out loud, part of Selig's decision making process has to weigh how bad it would look if a multi-billion dollar industry like baseball could be bullied into submission.
Or Selig, notoriously cautious, could say nothing and wait for it all to die down—as it likely will.
Selig owns an Arizona home. He knows what all the state's other residents do—that illegal aliens, drugs and violence cross the border at a furious rate and that Phoenix is the nation's kidnapping capital. Moving the All Star game will not change that one iota.
Just as baseball players don't have to swing at every pitch, neither does Selig. The S.B. 1070 stink is one he can let go by.
Arizonans have taken the first and long overdue step to end its illegal alien invasion.
They deserve the applause of all Americans, and legally resident baseball players.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.