Zell's Newest Rant -- Freaks and Cornrows

Monday, May 09, 2005

Zell's Newest Rant -- Freaks and Cornrows

Former Senator Zell Miller’s new book, Deficit of Decency, is a series of chapter-by-chapter rants – the UN is a worthless institution, Hollywood produces “filth masquerading as entertainment,” and so on. The book is punctuated by Biblical scriptures and self-approving phrases such as: “The more I read and pray …” (p. 189).

In one chapter, Miller laments that there aren't enough good role models in the sports world. Miller refers to the brawl last fall that interrupted a pro basketball game in Detroit.

Yet, within the same paragraph, Miller seems to feel that National Basketball Association players are “horny hoopsters.” In the Georgian’s world, NBA players with lots of tattoos, body piercings or "immaculately kept cornrows" are "thugs" and "freaks." Cornrows? Is this not-so-coded language Zell's way of identifying the race of these thugs and freaks?

In this same chapter of his book, Miller complains about steroid-using baseball players and then seems to present Mickey Mantle as his kind of role model. A photo in this chapter shows Zell sharing a laugh on stage with Mantle.

Miller is correct when he writes that Mantle’s mammoth homeruns were hit without the aid of steroids. But the Yankees slugger had a favorite drug of his own – one of the non-performance-enhancing variety: booze. Nor was Mantle a choir boy. As his obituary observed in 1995:
... as a Yankees superstar, [Mantle] had developed a taste for high living and good liquor that only accelerated after his playing days ended, and he eventually became a chronic alcoholic. He was treated for alcoholism, and his damaged liver eventually was ravaged by cirrhosis, hepatitis C and the cancer that led to his death.

... Off the field, he developed a reputation as a late-night carouser, which he later admitted had likely shortened his career.

In his dealings with the public, he could be gracious or callous, depending on his moods. Jim Bouton, a pitcher with the Yankees in the early 1960s, described Mantle in his book "Ball Four" as equally capable of shoving autograph-seeking children out of his way or taking time to mingle with, talk to and sign autographs for hundreds of admirers.

In retirement, Mantle participated in managing a variety of businesses .... In 1983, baseball's commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, banned him from baseball for doing public relations assignments for an Atlantic City casino.
Perhaps Miller is one of those who clings to the classic double-standard – heavy drinking is an unfortunate disease, but habitual use of marijuana, cocaine or other controlled substances is a willful act of immorality. Perhaps substance abusers who have tousled, blond hair are more easily excused by Miller than those with "immaculately kept cornrows."

Some observers speculated that it was Mantle's celebrity status -- as opposed to the health and medical factors that normally govern such decisions -- that enabled him to climb to the top of the priority list for a liver transplant in 1995. (This speculation increased when Mantle died of cancer only nine weeks after his transplant.)

It probably wouldn't bother Miller to know that potentially life-saving treatments or other special privileges would be earmarked for people with celebrity status or wealth. Anyone who so enthusiastically supports George W. Bush and his tax cuts is not lying awake at night worrying about the values of equality and fairness.

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