[T]here is no reason to call out any single writer for leaning too hard on this simple, cliched phraseology. Nor is there any evidence that points to any single writer being a closet racist. Still, the evidence is vast: whenever the phrase “lack of hustle” is used, chances are the player is black or Latino. This is disturbing! . . .
. . . Brandon Phillips is human, and when he erred, he showed it. I was not inside Brandon’s head when he smashed that baseball, but does anyone really think he thought, “Darn, I’m tired! Let me just trot a bit here so as not to exert too much energy!” No, he didn’t run it out; perhaps it was half hubris and half misjudgment. But to attack his character with that horrid phrase smacks of prejudice.
But as Rob notes, the terminology of “hustling” is problematic and loaded. Indeed, Rob points out that an analysis of news articles which reveals that “lack of hustle” is a term used almost exclusively to describe black and Latino players, never whites.
This is something of which I’ve long been aware. Nyjer Morgan hustles more than just about anyone I’ve seen, and he’s never described as someone who hustles. I’ve witnessed Aubrey Huff and Travis Hafner dog it down the line on multiple occasions and neither I nor anyone else I can recall have accused them of “lack of hustle.” Multiply this across the players and the years and, in the aggregate, the selective deployment of the term “hustle” has had the effect of reinforcing bad old stereotypes about minorities being lazy.
This is not to say that the concept of “hustling” is now some third-rail, politically incorrect thing. Even I’m not that big a sensitive lefty weenie to think that (and I’m a pretty sensitive, pretty left weenie). But I think that it’s probably worth thinking about how we use the term.
It’s one thing to say that someone did or did not hustle on a given play because they either did or they didn’t. But it’s something else to say someone, generally speaking, hustles or does not hustle, because that’s a character judgment -- a very subjective one, actually, that is usually not easily verifiable nor based on much evidence at all. And, as Rob empirically demonstrates, it’s one that leads inevitably to the land of racial stereotype.
After reading Rob’s post and thinking about it all, I’m mad at myself for using the phrase “lack of hustle.” Not because it was necessarily inaccurate in that particular instance, but because it’s prone to being misused and I don’t really feel like participating, however unwittingly, in the perpetuation of that kind of baloney.