Thursday, August 27, 2009

A 'fool' by any other name: Milton Bradley

I won't talk about what a fool is likely to do with his money. Not when I can simply talk about the fool himself. His name is Milton Bradley, a $10 million head-case who plays right field for the Chicago Cubs. 

Smart but unschooled on how to be a grownup, Bradley had a typical Bradley comment to a question from an ESPN Chicago reporter after a 15-6 loss Tuesday night to the Nationals, the worst team in baseball.  

The question: "Obviously not the type of beginning you felt you were gonna have here on the homestand."

Bradley's answer: "No, we got a Rodney King beatdown tonight."
Well, "GameBoy," as Bradley was jokingly referred to during his stormy seasons with the Indians, could have picked a lot of things to compare a nine-run loss to, but Rodney King's bloody, brutal beating should have been the last example he picked. For as horrible as a nine-run loss to the woeful Nationals might be, it compares not a bit to what the L.A. cops did to King. 
To even put the two events in the same sentence, as Bradley did, shows the kind of ignorance too often seen in athletes like him. They speak first without putting a minutes thought into what they say and how those words might be construed. Typical Milton Bradley stuff, though.
I had to see him daily when I covered the Indians and he played for them. It wasn't an experience I relished. For you never knew what personality would show up from day to day. Bradley could be the smiling, jovial Bradley, a young man of wit and charm. Then, in an instant, an anger could well in Bradley, erupting without notice to turn him into the devil in a jockstrap. The latter was a frightening sight to see, because you could never figure out where his anger springs from or if it would turn into violence.
During his Indians days, I heard the pop analysis of Milton Bradley: He had no strong black male in his life. Surely, that absence shaped his character. Yet thousands of black males have rose above that limitation, carving out successes despite of it. And Bradley has been better positioned than most of them to find a calmer, more reasoned terrain to live his life. He seems not to get it.
His shallowness would be understood if you didn't see his intellect. He can't mask it. Yet that's what is most confounding about him; he's content to carry out the handiwork of a fool. I never figured out why. 
I guess I should be inclined to call Milton Bradley an "enigma" and be done with it. To do so, however, would be an injustice to the word. To call him "complex" might not be accurate either. I guess that's the image he wants for himself -- the person nobody can figure out. 


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