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Tigers broadcaster Rod Allen apologizes to the little people

Sep 10, 2011, 11:30 AM EDT

Rod Allen

I don’t get the sense that Tigers’ broadcaster Rod Allen is a bad guy. I think he’s a lot like someone’s father or grandfather who just really isn’t all that plugged in with the sensibilities of modern public discourse. Which, because he’s a broadcaster and not, like someone’s grandfather, simply some guy who talks with the fellas at the coffee shop, gets him in trouble from time to time.

Back in July he got into some trouble after saying that some Hispanic players’ reward for good play was going to be “rice and beans” in the clubhouse.  I never got the slightest sense that he was being racist about anything, it just was something that was not artfully put. He apologized.

Last night it happened again.  As he was talking about how Buffalo was his favorite minor league city, he noted some of the fun promotions and entertainments that went down there:

“The atmosphere at the ballpark was second-to-none. They had people at the concession stands that were dancing on top of the dugouts. They had some midgets around, they had some giants around.”

While not exactly at the forefront of the politics of minority discourse, it has been the case for some time that the term “midgets” is considered derogatory and that those who once were referred to as such prefer to be called “little people.”

Someone obviously told this to Allen during a break because he came back and apologized for using the term. I think it’s pretty clear that it was just something he wasn’t aware of — I’m sure a lot of people aren’t aware of it — and his apology sounded 100% genuine. This is firmly in the “hey, it happens” category and no one should hold any ill will toward Allen about it going forward.

But I note it anyway, not in an “OMG, look what Allen said!” kind of way, but because I think that there’s a useful takeaway here.  That takeaway is that, though many people will likely say that this is no big deal and turn this into some “political correctness run amok” debate, I think people should have a right to be called what they wish to be called.  If the people who were once referred to as midgets want to be little people, they’re little people. A group’s self-identity should be an inviolate right.

Of course there are two sides to that, and the other side is the dissemination of that public identity. I’m sure that Allen had no idea that little people prefer to be known as little people before last night. But he does now. As do the people who read this.  If you don’t know and you use some out-of-favor term, hey, no biggie.  But if you do know and you continue to use the out-of-favor term, you’re just being an ass, ya know?

Apologies to asses, however, if they prefer to be called something else. If you tell me what the term is, I’ll start using it.

  1. Big Ed Robles - Sep 10, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Sounds like he was genuinely sorry. It takes a good heart to admit a mistake in the next inning like that. Usually people will wait until there’s a s***storm before they make mention of it.

    • Old Gator - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:12 PM

      I feel badly for the Little People. First they get smeared by Leona Helmsley, and now this.

      And worse:

      • ditto65 - Sep 10, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        Is that your signed copy?

      • Old Gator - Sep 10, 2011 at 1:26 PM

        No, that’s in the vault. But then all my copies are signed. As soon as I buy a book, I flip it open to the fronstpiece and endorse it to myself in the author’s name. For example, my Folger Library edition of The Tempest is signed “To Gator, best wishes, Will Shakespeare.” I signed my copy of The Bacchae and Other Plays” to myself in Greek – “For Gator, best wishes, Euripides.” I have a whole collection of Mishima signed to myself by Yukio da Man in Japanese. Etc. It gives me great transcendental pleasure to know that some day some idiot is going to find one of these books in a bargain bin on Washington Square and go running to Sotheby’s to have it appraised.

      • ditto65 - Sep 10, 2011 at 1:59 PM

        That is awesome. Please let me know if you are having a book selling bonanza. I would love a Shakespeare endorsed copy of The Tempest dedicated to Old Gator. I would keep it with the copy of the Declaration of Independence I scored at the National Constitution Center.

  2. The Common Man - Sep 10, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    I have it on good authority that asses prefer to be called “Halladaysbicepts.” Spread the word.

    • halladaysbiceps - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      Stay classy, hypocrite.

    • ditto65 - Sep 10, 2011 at 7:29 PM

      Singular: Asst

      Plural: Assest

  3. cur68 - Sep 10, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    Well I had no idea either.I certainly hope this is all there is to be said about it, but I somehow doubt it. This stuff wears me out, so, instead of useful debate I shall engage in something I enjoy far more; making fun of the situation and myslef.

    So, as a ‘cur’ I shall self identify with all mongrels, we shall for a group and we shall henceforth be known as “Super Genius” as in “Wile E. Coyote. Super Genius”. Please refer to us as such or suffer the wrath of an ACME produced device that will render me incapacitated for one commercial. Or something.

  4. koufaxmitzvah - Sep 10, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    It’s great that Rod Allen was so quick to apologize, but I don’t understand the need to breakdown our language in such a way. I had no idea “midget” is considered derogatory. I am sure it is to some, and that it isn’t to others. On that note, “little people” doesn’t sound sanitized at all to my ears (which are roughly set at 67″ from off the ground, which technically makes me a “short person” ala Randy Newman). It sounds rather condescending.

    Then again, we live in a time where the football team representing this nation’s capitol is named after a derogatory term for the indigenous people from whom this nation’s land was stolen, so what the heck do I know.

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:12 PM

      That’s why the football team representing this nation’s capitol are commonly referred to as the “Taters”. 😮

  5. skids003 - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    You would think by now that the liberals have taught us that everything you say offends someone now, so unless you are a liberal, it’s best to just say nothing at all. They do want to silence everyone else anyway.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      Last time I checked, non-liberals are easily offended. Try calling Rush Limbaugh a Pill Popping Fat Racist. Apparently, “FemiNazi” is all cool and that, but actually describing a Conservative as what he is, well that goes too far.

      A better idea, Skids: Don’t make everything political, and never jump to conclusions.

      • jwbiii - Sep 10, 2011 at 5:21 PM

        That’s not fair. Rush Limbaugh should be accorded the same attention and respect as any other babbling junkie.

    • Big Ed Robles - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:44 PM

      FemiNazi and Islamo-fascist. Republi-con and Teabagger. It goes both ways. Stop listening to the rhetoric and start learning something for yourself.

    • jimeejohnson - Sep 10, 2011 at 4:36 PM

      Poor right wing NUT: yours is the party most like the Fascists as you tread on everyone else’s right to live free. You let ignorant phonies from Fox FAKE news keep you docile like sheep while America is brought to its knees with your hate and paranoia. Keep serving the rich and powerful: it’s what useful idiots do best!

    • Old Gator - Sep 11, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      Liberals have, indeed, been working hard to keep knuckledraggers from sounding like simians and swine every time they exercise their unconscious reflexes to stigmatize anyone who isn’t “like” them in some way or other. Unfortunately, civility comes uneasily to xenophobes and the great work goes on. The right may not like it very much but it’s really for their own good.

  6. jimbo1949 - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    Midgets are Little People, OK
    So what name are they tossing around for dwarfs these days?

    • theolgoaler - Sep 10, 2011 at 1:09 PM

      Eddie, I think… (Hey, at least ol’ Ed’s employed!) 😉

    • ditto65 - Sep 10, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      Ralph, Mildred, Frank…

    • Old Gator - Sep 11, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      Jimbo – I’ll be damned if I can figure out why “the little people” is somehow more or less denigrating that “midgets.” I still haven’t figured out why “chairperson,” being such a nuisance to pronounce, is more correct than “chairwoman” or just plain “chairman,” implicitly androgynous. Yeah, you can understand why a range of ethnic terms might be offensive – they have a long history of being deliberately used in destructive ways. Even there, there are absurdities – “Native American” may be “politically correct” but drive around the country and the signs as you enter a reservation still largely read “So-and-so Indian Tribe.”

      But, “midgets”? Meh. people talk themselves into being offended by what was once only a benignly descriptive term. Tempest in a teakettle.

  7. The Rabbit - Sep 10, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    When I first read the headline, I thought Rod Allen was channeling Leona Helmsley.

    This is a topic to which I’ve given a great deal of thought throughout the years. First, I’m a huge fan of free speech. Maybe I’m just an old and cranky liberal, but I’m really tired of the media (PC police?) dissecting every single statement and maligning the character of the individual who made it. You actually addressed this fairly well, Craig.
    I personally try very hard to make everyone feel comfortable and am extremely sensitive to terms that are demeaning and derogatory. I must admit if you push all of my buttons, then I will go all Ozzie G. on you and search my vocabulary for the most hurtful thing I can think to say. It’s a very personal, not a global mindset.
    Besides being a member of a minority group myself, I’ve always had a very eclectic group of friends who are members of diverse minority groups. We’ve discussed this subject and have wondered: Who is that magical person who decides what a group’s “label” is? There’s always some organization that takes credit but actually has a very small membership percentage of the group it claims to represent.
    We’ve agreed on one thing: It’s rarely the words that are hurtful or offensive. It’s always the intent.
    IMHO, by devoting so much energy and ridicule regarding those who might not use the politically correct term (the equivalent of arguing whether a negotiating table should be round or square), we are undermining the ability to build unity in a multicultural society based on our similarities, rather than our differences. That’s very sad….and makes this, truly, a serious topic.

    BTW-You could substitute Mike Shannon’s name and your description would be dead on. One of the strangest interviews I ever heard was Shannon discussing an upcoming Walk for the Cure in St. Louis with a female sponsor during a Cardinals game. I couldn’t figure out if he was uncomfortable talking about breasts or just talking to “girls” about them. As a female, I didn’t find him offensive (although some women might have) for the very reasons you stated, i.e., he’s from a different generation and his intention wasn’t to be condescending or patronizing. He was just clearly out of his element.

    • cur68 - Sep 10, 2011 at 2:28 PM


  8. jetersusedjersey - Sep 10, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    I like the term anti-giant or Dustin Pedrioria (spelling? eh I don’t really give a damn if I spelled it right) for midgets.

  9. baseballisboring - Sep 10, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    i don’t like midgets. they’re too small

  10. dmvdmv101560 - Sep 10, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Must be a slow sports day when you have to “dig” for an article like this – this is such a non-issue that it hurts your credibility, Craig! Come on – with so much exciting baseball being played right now can’t you find something better to write about. As a Tiger’s fan and a long time listener of Rod Allen, you are doing him a disservice by just hinting that he is racist. He brings great insight to the game of baseball and there are very few other announcers that I would want to listen to. Stop trying to “make” the news and just report it.

    • jimeejohnson - Sep 10, 2011 at 4:38 PM

      Some of us are capable of appreciating higher level thinking skills, including inference and drawing conclusions. Stick with Fox FAKE news as it suits your lower level thinking skills perfectly!

  11. aaronmoreno - Sep 10, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    It was my understanding that little person was preferred, midget was okay, and dwarf was derogatory. I recall this watching an interview of Verne Troyer get noticeably angry when referred to as a dwarf, which is weird because the medical condition is called dwarfism.

    I don’t know what’s going on, and why someone hasn’t posted Short People by Randy Newman.

  12. The Baseball Idiot - Sep 10, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    I guess referring to them as the Lollipop Kids isn’t allowed either?

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 10, 2011 at 5:49 PM

  13. jamie54 - Sep 10, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Hey baldie, just call us donkey’s. Oops, sorry, follicly challenged. My bad.

  14. thejjharris - Sep 10, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    I prefer the term “Jackanape” if the full “A__hole” is not viable.

  15. Old Gator - Sep 10, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    “The advantage to being a dwarf is that you can be wiser than other people and they don’t hate you for it.”

    …Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan, in The Year of Living Dangerously

  16. phenom - Sep 11, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    To me and a lot of my friends, the Tigers have two excellent play-by-play guys (Mario Impemba and Dan Dickerson) and two awful analysts (Jim Price and Rod Allen). However, Rod Allen is becoming sort of a cult hero around here. His regular mix of ebonics (for lack of a better term) into his broadcast went from being an eye-rolling punchline to the sort of thing that Tweets of Greatness are made of. Okay, not really, but hopefully you get the point. I don’t doubt that Rod Allen meant no ill will toward the little people with his comment. He’s just not smart enough for that.

    Finally, did he apologize to the giants of the world, too?

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