Jay Buhner probably isn’t antisemitic

At the center of another Mariners controversy is former Seattle Times beat writer, and present Investigative Journalist of something-or-another sports related Geoff Baker.

Through the medium of Twitter, Vine, and Facebook he functionally accused Jay Buhner of saying that Sam Fuld “tricker Jewed” Michael Saunders when he nearly made a catch at the top of the fence in center field, and remained on the ground for an extended period after apparently sustaining a minor knee injury. Sam Fuld is Jewish, which was enough to connect the dots between Buhner and antisemitism.

The Mariners have issued a statement that Buhner actually said that Fuld had “trickered you’d” Saunders.

At this point there are two admissions to be made:

First, Geoff Baker has been nothing but good to this site. He’s linked to my work and has been pleasant to me personally over Twitter and Facebook. I hope that doesn’t change, and I’ve acknowledged in the past that I don’t usually agree with his journalistic tactics and his public demeanor, and he’s been perfectly civil.

Also, I’ve written about potential antisemitism that I noticed in a stupid app I played on my phone in the past.

At some point recently I was privy to, albeit not involved in a conversation where someone used the term “Jew” in reference to an attempt to rip someone off in a negotiation. This is clearly a derogatory use of the word, and his counterpart in the conversation said “dude, you can’t say that,” to which the first man responded essentially “Ah this world is too politically correct, you can’t say anything anymore.”

I didn’t wade in for an argument. I’m a coward, or just normal. Still, he was wrong, you can say anything that isn’t hateful.

This reminds me of the beginning of a Michael Che bit I saw recently, where he was blown away that in this country there are people who are, and within their rights to be, against equal rights. You can do whatever you want in this country, and you can stand for whatever you choose.

You can be vilified for those things also, and there is some idea that popular values will self-police bigotry, even in its most innocuous forms. This is one of those cases.

It’s wrong to degrade a person for their religion. If Buhner in fact said “tricker Jewed,” he should be fired immediately. But did he really say “tricker Jewed?”

It doesn’t seem like it to me. If you play the video, there’s a full second of silence before he says what I believe to be “trickered you’d.” In the context of what he’s saying, this pause functionally works as air quotes, but considering his relative inexperience as a broadcaster, Buhner may be literally using air quotes in studio.

The phrase “trickered you” isn’t one we’re used to in the Northwest. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve heard it before, and I’m usually on the trailing edge of most slang trends. But Buhner is from Texas, and in the booth he’s proven to be a proverbial talking doll so far as off-the-wall colloquialisms are concerned.

And sure, he’s using it in a weird, grammatically incorrect way. He’s using a past-tense-verb-and-noun, and basically parenthetically turning them into another past tense verb.

I know, that sounds weird, but then again, remember #Felixing? This isn’t English class. It’s kind of dumb, but not nefarious.

To me the issue here isn’t really whether or not Buhner said something antisemitic or not. Most of the evidence points to him not having said anything. What’s more conceivable is that this is just an audible illusion. Try to say the term “hosed you” without having it sound just a little bit like “hose jew.” Speech is unclear sometimes. In this case, it sounded like Buhner invented a racial slur and verb wrapped into one. He didn’t.

To me the problem here is the pattern of “gotcha journalism” that writers are being rewarded for. Why wait for facts when facts could be the obstacle stopping you from showing up on Huffington Post as the henchmen at the execution of a person’s career?

Really, the prevailing evidence from this is the stereotype that people who speak with an accent like Buhner’s are racist. But isn’t assuming that all southerners are racist just as bad as assuming that all Jews are tricky?

For what it’s worth, this isn’t Geoff Baker’s fault, at least not in my opinion. Reactionary journalism is something that seems to be forced by the industry now. He who is most willing to sacrifice his integrity or reduce themselves to pure trolling is the most rewarded, just look at Skip Bayless and Bomani Jones. There is an entire industry around sports rumors. There was a time when being first was impossible because newspapers hit everyone’s doorstep at roughly the same time. Those times are gone, and instant reactions – which are occasionally wrong and grossly embellished and exaggerated – are available from nearly ever journalist through social media.

Buhner isn’t exactly grinding through a full-docket of broadcasts, making a living off his broadcast career. But the next broadcaster might be. Buhner’s career limited broadcast career aspirations would hardly absolve any harm done to his reputation and career.

The problem is that these kinds of things, where we decide to light the torches before we’ve gathered all the information we need, can be damaging to people’s careers. There will be people who 10 years from now won’t remember that Jay Buhner actually used some goofy, ill-fated, harmless slang from Texas, and instead will believe Buhner to be the modern-day Jimmy The Greek.

Note: Baker has tweeted about the Mariners response, hopefully putting this mostly to bed.