Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Opinionated on Puckett

Yesterday, after hearing the news of Kirby Puckett's death, I allowed myself a little nostalgia time and surfed around reading accounts for fresh content, reminiscing about my years of watching the Twins play - especially the year I returned to Minnesota after my sojourn to Georgia, the year Puckett's Twins team triumphed at home over the hated Braves... it was so relevant, my true home winning out over my temporary home, like a validation of my decision to return to Minnesota and what mattered to me.

In my meandering I ran across Elliott Kalb's piece at Fox Sports. This is the same Elliot Kalb whose impassioned defense of Barry Bonds appeared exactly one year ago at TheSportsCritics.com. I was irritated by Mr. Kalb's decision to lace his Puckett piece with references to the numerous insinuations and accusations from Puckett's alleged long-time mistress, the assault trial (for which he was acquitted), and other personal difficulties that plagued him in more recent years. So irritated, in fact, that I dashed off the following letter:

Dear Mr. Kalb,

Clearly you know a thing or two about baseball.

Unfortunately, I wish you could have found a way to keep your ugly comments about Kirby Puckett to yourself on the day of his death. I am disgusted by your decision to dredge up three paragraphs of ugly innuendo over personal matters in his life, wild speculations for which he was never charged and accusations for which he was acquitted (as in "declared not guilty" and "held blameless"). Frankly, I don't expect my sports heroes to be saints and I'm willing to cut a lot of slack to a guy who had done so much for so many when he lost that thing he lived for. I don't care one bit if he angrily told his mistress she shouldn't betray him or she'd "be in trouble" for it. I don't give a damn if he and his wife argued bitterly and heatedly in the midst of their divorce.

I grew up in Minnesota, a white girl in a white, white land and the Twins were very influential in my life. Long before I'd ever met a person of color in my real life, the Minnesota Twins showed me that people of color were part of my experience of life and did so in the most positive way. (I joined the MS Readathon when I was in first grade because the grand prize was dinner with Rod Carew.) Please do not underestimate the significance of that experience! I watched the Twins play baseball throughout my youth, lived the excitement Puck's team brought to Minnesota in those magical World Series championships, and I cried when I heard that he was being forced into retirement so young. I don't care if Kirby Puckett had to drag himself to those hospitals he visited motivated only by the good press he hoped to receive or if he bounded in there because he loved every minute of it: the kids he visited, the people whose lives he touched were touched just the same, regardless of his private feelings and motivations. He was an excellent, exciting baseball player who has earned and deserves every bit of admiration he has received.

Shame on you for taking the sad opportunity of his death after a decade of sadness and grief to dredge the nadir of his life for things better left alone!

Nicole Lindroos
Minnesota born and raised

Mr. Kalb is of the opinion that well-paid celebrities do not have the same entitlement to privacy or respect for their personal lives as the rest of us. I don't blame him for holding this common attitude but it is not a position that I share. I watched Puckett play baseball. He was an exceptional baseball player, and unlike Barry Bonds, he didn't have any scandals related to his career, his performance, or his public behavior. I feel that whatever he might have confided in private, however bitter and ugly his divorce may have played out, what we have a right to judge is what he gave the public on and off the field. Mr. Kalb wrote about Barry Bonds' late-career scandal "...it will diminish in time and Bonds will be remembered for his exploits on the field." Out and out cheating on the job will fade, but largely unproven (and in some cases outright debunked) allegations of off-field, post-retirement troubles should tarnish Puckett's memory? I just can't agree. As I elaborated in response to Mr. Kalb's reply, Kirby Puckett was well paid for the job he did, and he steadfastly maintained his positive public persona throughout, regardless of the turmoils in his private life. He lived up to his obligations, both actual and those imposed on him by virtue of his celebrity status. I believe it does him a great disservice to portray "two Kirby's" as if there is a "good" Kirby we are allowed to embrace and a "bad" Kirby we are expected to reject. He was an exceptional baseball player and an admirable, if imperfect, man.

Mr. Kalb responded this morning, thanking me for my "immediate and well-thought" letter and asking my permission to reprint it on his website when he reposts his FoxSports article there. I've given him my permission to do so. I'm curious to see if anything comes of it.


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Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Way to go! You rock! I agree that it's unfair to talk about the scandals so soon after his death. Even if he beat his wife (as I have heard), there are (probably) professional sports players who both beat their wife AND act like a jerk to everyone. He was generally a nice guy, whether it was a charade or not. As long as he's doing good, it doesn't matter why he's doing it. And besides, like you said, he was aquitted for his alleged crimes. So why dwell on it? He should be remembered for what we know he did, and not what we think he did. And we know he did great things.


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