Sporting: Schott Down

She lives the lonely tyranny of self-deception, alienating the people she needs, awaiting support from enemies, never learning, always believing in the better angels of an America she's never understood.She married into money and, belittling people of class, race and ethnicity for whom she has no use, still fancies herself a champion of the little guy.Entirely missing the unwritten rules of contemporary public life, she believes her ways are mandated by a few, powerless supporters -- simple, kindly, untravelled people who fall for her innocent side and resolutely ignore numerous accounts of her malevolent ignorance.Today, nobody can save Marge Schott, the disgraced owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Just as her second suspension for publicized racial slurs was to end after the baseball season, Major League Baseball sought to extend the suspension, investigating allegations that she used the names of Reds employess in phony car deals to make quota for one of her General Motors dealerships.Instead, Major League Baseball has secured from Schott an agreement to sell the club by December 31. Until she sells the club, Reds managing executive John Allen will be in charge. Schott can, perhaps, keep fighting Major League Baseball. But she would have to pay high-powered bucks for a high-powered attorney. That's highly unlikely. She thinks justice is supposed to be free. She just doesn't understand.And that's really where it all boils down. In lore, Schott will forever be linked with racism. In truth, she probably is little, if at all, more racist than a lot of other people calling the shots in America. Her mistake is that she never learned what they already know. They know about the system, they know about business, they know about fame in the 20th Century. All she knows is what she wants. And she can't have that.She allegedly cheated to keep her car dealerships. Little did it matter to her that GM had been watching her every move for nearly 30 years, waiting for her to slip. Little did it matter that Major League Baseball watched her every move for more than five years, waiting for her to slip. She couldn't figure it out. And she slipped.Schott lived an American Dream dressed in fame and money. She didn't understand either one. Of the two, she obviously preferred fame. That's what got her. She could have continued running the Reds into the ground, untouched by the system, if she had only kept a low profile. Once it became clear her social views would be her undoing, she expounded them at every opportunity. She should have kept her mouth shut. But she didn't want to own the Reds on those terms. It would have defeated the purpose of owning them.So little does Schott understand the world in which she lives that she has offered her views even as "politically correct" became one of the country's most repeated catch phrases. Many still argue about what, exactly, political correctness is, but the Schott case is instructive, because if her speech had been politically correct, she could have gotten away with being a racist. Indeed, racism and political correctness can, and often do, reside in the same persons.Political correctness, most simply, is a code of etiquette for public discourse, recognizing that it is impolite and inappropriate to slur races and ethnicities. It is a call to civility, an attempt to constrain the vocabulary through which divisive issues are to be discussed by words and terms that are respectful.Of course, it isn't really that simple, for the notion of political correctness introduces manifold tensions between advocates of an equitable society and champions of free speech. Presumably, the tension will not touch individuals, for anyone who desires an equitable society probably is respectful enough of races and ethnicities to speak about them politely.And the PC police desire not simply a polite basis for dialogue, but the eradication of racism altogether, believing that changes in the way people talk will ultimately change their beliefs. Despite free speech tensions, the case for political correctness is so powerful that even boosters of an oppressive social order, in order to make their points sound respectable, have learned to code their public language. But Schott didn't know the code.Major League Baseball's actions with regard to Schott should leave no doubt about how the national passtime guages the mood of America. It's worth remembering that Baseball suspended Schott in 1996 not for being a racist, but, officially, for uttering racial slurs. Baseball had already suspended her in 1993 for similar offenses, strong evidence of her racism.Now, she'll have to sell the Reds. And she'll think herself a martyr. Again, she doesn't understand. Some of the people she has hurt the most with her slurs, fellows like Dave Parker, Eric Davis and Barry Larkin, African-American Reds players under Schott, have expressed sadness, even pity for her.Their pity isn't the feeling one would have for a martyr, a person who suffers over loyalty to high principle. Schott's principles are dubious. Pity toward Schott is the feeling one would have toward a person who is in over her head. Fortunately for all, she won't be in over her head much longer.


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