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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
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12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

Carlos Perez and Bill Singer
2004-12-20 21:09
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

The headline on the Detroit Free Press story read, "We all can learn from the story of Carlos Perez." More than 4,300 words later, I sat back wondering if that were true.

The story is not about what you might suspect - or rather, it is about much more. It is about the three occasions on which the former Dodger pitcher was accused of rape, about how the media reported the cases, and about the justice system prosecuted and defended the cases.

Free Press reporter Michael Rosenberg's article is outstanding. There is little mistaking what he suspects to be the truth in the case of Perez, but despite this, he has thoroughly reported both sides of a story that he acknowledges comes down to a he said-she said.

At the same time, Rosenberg has a broader point to advocate. Though he can't render an infallible judgment on Perez, he can render a judgment on "how the system reacts."

We hear the accusation. We question the motives of the alleged victim, which we don't do with other crimes. We question the accuser more than we question the accused.

Team officials instinctively defend the player. Expensive attorneys disparage the accuser, saying the allegations are false. Sometimes the allegations are indeed false.

We decide, almost instantly, whom we believe.

Coincidentally, just one day before the Perez article ran, Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe revisited the story of former Dodger pitcher and scout Bill Singer, whom the Mets fired 13 months ago from his brand-new job as special assistant to the general manager (pretty much the job, I believe, that was previously filled by Mr. Wilhelm) after Singer made racially insensitive remarks to Dodger assistant general manager Kim Ng.

Edes reports on the effort, strikingly reminiscent of the attempts to rehabilitate the career of former Dodger general manager Al Campanis after his firing due to insensitive remarks before a nationwide Nightline audience to give Singer a second chance.

After going through alcohol and sensitivity counseling, and undergoing a battery of medical exams, Singer believes he has an explanation for his conduct, one he offered to prospective employers, so far to no avail. According to a signed statement by his Sarasota-based family physician, Jack S. Rodman, Singer fell victim to a combination of factors that affected his "cognitive performance and judgment to a level that is not typically present." Singer, Rodman said, was on medication to control his blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. In a few-week period just before the GM meetings, he also had begun the South Beach diet and lost 35 pounds, while continuing on his medication.

"It is my professional opinion," Rodman wrote, "that the combined weight loss with a metabolically altering diet and subsequent diminished body mass, in the face of continued antihypertensive medication, put the patient in a state of potential compromise . . . Clearly the addition of a limited amount of alcohol could quickly impair a person to a point of disorientation, confusion, and altered level of consciousness."

Singer insists he has no knowledge of what he said to Ng, but accepts that it was highly offensive, "It was obviously a horrible incident," he said. "But it happened."

For those of the bleeding heart, there's almost a pristine conflict - believe that the racism was disease-induced, or believe that racism was the disease. The Singer-Ng story is less of a he said-she said than a he justified-they aren't buying it. The direct comparison between the two stories is not obvious. If nothing else, Singer got his. Perez, outside of a settlement paid in an entirely separate case brought by a flight attendant on the Dodger team plane, didn't.

However, there is a thread between the Perez and Singer articles, and it's worth noting. There is a passion in this country, if not this world, and the passion is to rush to judgment. Most of us are impatient people, insatiably eager to assign credit or blame. There's a Veruca Salt in just about every one of us, and if it's not, "I want an oompa-loompa now," it's "I want to decide now."

The world doesn't work that way.

You know what I think? My bets would be that Kobe Bryant was innocent of rape and Carlos Perez was guilty. I've read about both incidents, and I'm here to tell you that ... I couldn't be less qualified to judge. My opinions on these matters aren't worth a cent and a half, and I wouldn't argue them with any conviction (if you'll pardon the expression). I'm the kind of guy who would rather wait for the trial. The problem is, the trial doesn't always come.

About 99 degrees down the seriousness scale, there are those who would accuse Paul DePodesta and Frank McCourt of doing to the Dodgers what Carlos Perez was accused of doing to those women. It's entirely possible that it's true. It's also entirely possible that it isn't. Moreover, barring unforseen circumstances, we'll get to have our trial - the continued 2004-05 offseason, the 2005 season, and so on, and on.

This past week, during which the masses have taken arms against Dodger owner Frank McCourt, I have been relatively silent about him. Earlier this year, when most people celebrated McCourt mainly because he meant the vanquishing of the Fox ownership, I went on record with my fears about McCourt ownership. It hasn't been conscious, but I'm noticing an increasing tendency in myself to not so much take the contrary side, as to give it a chance to speak. It's not noble, it's just something I appear to be doing lately. I have my passions, and because they are passions, I question them.

Must we withhold our opinions, our predictions, until the formal verdict? No, not necessarily. But there is one thing we can do. We can all learn from Michael Rosenberg. We can listen, and listen hard, to viewpoints that conflict with ours. We can sift out individual nuggets of truth, even if the entire theory doesn't appear to hold - and maybe even come to a grander conclusion than we intended.

We can address people with respect even when we disagree. On a graver note, we can fear the worst about Carlos Perez but still note that the justice system finds him innocent, and we can fear the worst about his accusers but still note that the strength of their accusations. On a lighter note, we can even admire Moneyball and still be sentimental.

In some cases - particularly political - this will be easier said than done. But it's something to at least consider.

We don't have to check our passions at the door to offer a fair trial. And when something objectively and conclusively awful or wonderful arrives at our table, perhaps we'll have that much more appreciation for it, and perhaps our words and actions will carry that much more respect.

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