Jeff Pearlman

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Why I support Howard Bryant

So when the news came out that Howard Bryant, the excellent ESPN.com writer and someone I consider a friend, was arrested on charges of domestic assult and battery, I Tweeted the following:

jeffpearlman

@jeffpearlman jeffpearlman
I believe in Howard Bryant 100%—a good friend and good person.

•••

The response was pretty nasty. You support someone you know while damning Jeff Bagwell? How can you back a guy who hits his wife? Etc … etc.

Here’s the thing: I’m not saying whether Howard is innocent or guilty, right or wrong—though I have an awfully hard time believing the story told by the police is the 100-percent accurate account. What I am saying is I believe in him. In his character. In his decency. In his history. If he did this, well, obviously it’s a problem. But knowing him as I do, I find it hard to fathom. I really do.

A quick story about Howard that, I believe, says something. Years ago the two of is were talking at the Cubs’ spring training facility in Arizona. It was about an hour before a game, and we were standing in a concourse, minding our business. A man comes up, holding two tickets, taps Howard on the shoulder and says, “Can you tell me where my seats are?”

The world’s most awkward silence ensued, and then Howard said, “Do I look like an usher to you?”

The man slunk away. It was perfect. Dead-on perfect.

But that’s the thing. Because it’s 2011, and because we have an African-American president, people seem to think racial issues are no longer racial issues. That black-white isn’t black-white. I’m not saying Howard and his wife, who is white, were victims of racism. But it’s certainly far from unfathomable—black man, white woman, argument, iffy state.

What can I say? I believe in Howard Bryant.

I do.

  • Brian

    Playing the race card? Disgraceful.

    A trial separation + domestic violence arrest never equals one big happy family

  • Ryan

    Jeff,

    I’ve been a reader for a long time, and I’d just like to say one thing.

    You have a relationship with Mr. Bryant – certainly professional, and what seems to be a friendship beyond that. When these accusations appear, you announce to everyone that no one should be quick to judge him, that he should be allowed to defend himself against these accusations, and we should withhold our responses until we get the full story.

    And I’m in complete agreement with you.

    Now if only you could offer the same consideration to Jeff Bagwell.

  • Danny

    After your explanation, i’m still not sure how this isn’t a complete double standard just because you know (or think you know) the guy. seems like the evidence in both scenarios is equally slim, other than the fact that bryant was actually arrested. not to mention that taking steroids is not even in the same “ballpark” as domestic abuse when it comes to right and wrong

    • Jeff Pearlman

      I get it, Danny, I do. A few thoughts …
      1. When a friend gets in trouble, you support him—period. Whether he did something or not, you are supposed to be there for him. That’s how I feel. It doesn’t mean he did or didn’t do it. It means I support him, just as I’m sure McGwire’s friends and Bonds’ friends and Raffy’s friends have supported them—whether they used PED or not.

      2. I have no doubt Jeff Bagwell used. None. It doesn’t mean his friends should abandon him; it doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. It means, in the context of baseball, he is a cheater. To be honest, in hindsight I wish I’d never written the Bagwell post, because too much of my info in this area is based on off-the-record and anonymous sourcing. That was my bad. But it doesn’t change my belief at all.

      Oh, well.

  • DG

    He’s not guilty of domestic violence because he is a nice guy who once stood up to someone who made a racist error? That’s a lot weaker evidence than you have on Jeff Bagwell, whom you condemn with no hesitation.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Wait, DG, who said he’s not guilty? Or is guilty? All I’m saying is, as a friend, I support the guy. That’s all.

  • DG

    “I believe in Howard Bryant 100%—a good friend and good person.” That seems like a belief in innocence to me, Jeff.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      no, being serious, dg. i just mean i believe in his decency and goodness. how could i know what happened on the scene? i wasn’t there.

  • Steve

    Jeff, appreciate and understand you standing by your friend – I’m sure in time the truth will be revealed about what did or did not happen between Howard and his wife.

    Regarding your story about the Cubs game, could it have been that the lost fan simply approached Howard because he looked either approachable or like someone who would know his way around the ballpark, or perhaps both? I get the unexpressed but understood implication of your anecdote, but I’m not comfortable jumping to the conclusion I think you want the reader to jump to based on the information you have provided.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Steve, I was there. It was undeniable.

  • Steve

    Not sure why my earlier comment was not approved for posting…..but I certainly do appreciate your right to editorial control over your own website.

    Just re-read your post, Jeff, and your positing that Massachusetts is an “iffy state” – what exactly are you inferring with that comment?

    • Jeff Pearlman

      steve, i didn’t delete any comments you wrote. And I meant the racial history of Boston, not the entire state. My bad.

  • Matthew

    I can’t and won’t speak to either Howard Bryant or Jeff Bagwell’s guilt or innocence but going forward I’ll now never ask anyone but a white guy for directions to my seat.

  • Ryan

    “How could I know what happened on the scene? i wasn’t there.”

    How could you know what happened in Jeff Bagwell’s locker/bathroom/home gym/kitchen? You weren’t there.

    You take the word of your “off-the-record and anonymous sourcing”, but choose to invalidate the records of multiple witnesses.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Ryan—huge difference. I know my sourcing, and believe in it 100%.

      Again, I’m not saying Howard is innocent or guilty. But just as, if someone accused your friend or family member of something you’d support him/her as a human being, I choose to do the same.

      I understand your take. Just disagree.

  • Ryan

    Jeff,

    That’s fair – it would have made a bit more sense had you mentioned these sources during the HoF firestorm – it came across as “I think he used, therefore I won’t vote for him.”

    One other question – was the argument that “he didn’t stand up enough for testing” legit, or was that a statement to defend your position? If it is legitimate, I hope you will apply it equally to all players from this era, and not just Bagwell.

  • PatP

    Jeff,

    I am just wondering how the episode on the concourse had undeniable racist undertones. Could you elaborate?

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Pat, send me an e-mail at anngold22@gmail.com. Better to have this convo that way, if it’s cool w/ you.

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