So yesterday Deadspin was nice enough to republish a (slightly different) version of my Jackie Robinson/gentrification post. Just a few hours later, Dave Zirin, who wrote the original article, which was entitled “Gentrification is the Real Scandal Surrounding Jackie Robinson West,” chimed in to scold me for having the “grotesque” audacity to accuse him of thinking that there was some gentrification around Jackie Robinson West.
I’ll take him at his word that he meant no such thing. That leaves me unclear as to what, exactly, gentrification had to do with JRW, or why it was in his headline, or what he meant when he wrote: “The fact that the adults in charge of JRW felt the need to breach this rule perhaps has something to do with the fact that today’s urban landscape supports baseball about as well as concrete makes proper soil for orchids…. This is because twenty-first-century neoliberal cities have gentrified urban baseball to death.” But life is full of mysteries.
I have a lot of feelings about the rest of his piece, which I mostly found kind of bizarre and flailing. I think it’s probably unproductive to continue this conversation any further, though, so I’ll leave them unblogged.
Except for one thing, because I’m not quite that virtuous. At the bottom of my post, I had included an image of a street a few blocks from Jackie Robinson Park, to illustrate the point that many of the children on the team came from relatively stable, middle-class neighborhoods, and to refer to them as “flowers growing in concrete” (as Zirin did) was to perpetuate the damaging myth that black communities on the South Side are all ravaged and destitute.
Zirin, however, didn’t recognize the photo, calling it a “suburban home,” and calling my contention that we should acknowledge the real diversity of black neighborhoods on the South Side “kind of gross.”
Having had it pointed out to him on Twitter and in the comments that the homes he called suburban were actually in the city neighborhoods he had been confidently pontificating about this entire time, he had Deadspin quietly edit the line. It now reads “suburban-looking.”
I suppose that shouldn’t be shocking, given that when I asked him if he had ever been to the places he was being paid to analyze for a national audience, he told me that he had once “lived on the South Side for a summer.” He didn’t specify when he had done that, or indicate whether his South Side neighborhood was anywhere near the JRW neighborhoods.
I guess now we know.
Edit: Uh, Deadspin‘s Albert Burneko did my job for me and wrote an actual non-snarky explanation of why Zirin’s response was so confusing/unsatisfying. Thanks, Albert.