I didn’t say anything about the Rob Dibble incident last week — wherein the Nationals’ qualifications-free color commentator went off and embarrassed himself, MASN and the Nationals in talking about two women seated behind the plate, including the lines “There must be a sale tomorrow going on here or something….Their husbands are going man, don’t bring your wife next time” — in part because TCM had just riffed a bit on misogyny in baseball the day before and in part because I knew it’d be well covered elsewhere in the blogosphere. And covered it was: Amanda Rykoff put a helpful roundup of all those responses on her blog.
But then yesterday, Dibble made his “apology.” The full text of his on-air apology (as presumably transcribed by someone at MASN and circulated by Rykoff) is as follows:
You know, Bob, recently some things have come to my attention that, in cyberspace, some really toxic and hurtful things have been mentioned about me, something I said last week during a baseball game. To anybody that does not know me that was offended, or took offense with what I said in my weak attempt to be humorous during a down time during the game, I truly apologize. That’s not truly how I feel about any baseball fan — men, women, or children. And so I wrote a blog, in my own words, not the words of other people who’d like you to think differently, on MASNSports.com. So, my humble and sincere apology if I offended anybody last week.
The referenced blog post, here, reads much the same way (but probably worse). He tells a story about how he loves his mom, wife, and daughter, who are all baseball fans, and talks generally about how the great thing about the game is that it can appeal to everyone. And then, oh, by the way:
The other night I made an off-handed comment, the meaning of which may have been misconstrued beyond what was said. If any fan of this great game took offense, then he or she should know that this was neither my intention nor my history in the game.
But anyway, read it for yourself, lest Dibble accuse you of getting your information from “other people who’d like you to think differently.”
Let’s discuss a couple of things that are terribly, terribly wrong with Dibble’s “apology.”
First, he plays the “poor-me” card. If you start by discussing how you’ve been the victim of “some really toxic and hurtful things” on the internet, nothing else you’re about to say matters at all: that’s not an apology. Rob, toxic and hurtful things were said about you because you are a public figure who said an offensive thing on television. Your job now is not to whine about how horribly you’ve been treated by people who were doing no more than respond to the offensive thing you said; do that to your wife and daughter in front of a baseball game sometime. Your job is to show some sign that you understand that there’s a reason that thousands of people are very mad at you right now, and that you’re sorry for causing all that.
Also, he apologized for your feelings, not for hurting them. Every public apology seems to go this way, and I just can’t imagine why people still seem to think it’s okay. It’s not a terribly subtle distinction: “I was wrong to say that, and I apologize to those I offended,” on one hand, and “if you were offended by what I said, I apologize,” on the other. Dibble chose the latter route. You misunderstood, you took what I said the wrong way, you don’t know me, but if you were too stupid to get it, I want to humbly and sincerely apologize for that. You know, for your being stupid and all.
Finally, when it comes down to it, he just didn’t apologize for anything at all. Look, if you’re talking to a group of close friends and someone else overhears, I can buy the “to anybody that doesn’t know me” and the “the meaning of which may have been misconstrued beyond what was said” stuff. You, Mr. Dibble, are speaking in a medium the very nature of which is that the great majority of your audience does not know you. They can’t apply your peculiar sense of humor or think, “oh, I know Robbie, he didn’t really mean that that way.” All they can do is interpret what you say in the way that normal, sensible people would interpret those things in a normal conversation with, say, a casual acquaintance.
And the normal, straightforward meaning of what Rob Dibble said was that two women chatting with each other behind the plate at a baseball game were probably talking about shopping and must have been dragged there by their husbands. Because it is clear from the context that Dibble didn’t know these particular women, and because he had to pay attention to a baseball game and couldn’t possibly have been watching those women the entire game (maybe they were watching the game but talking intently with each other between pitches about Adam Kennedy’s BABIP?), the assumption a normal person must make is that Dibble assumes that all women — or maybe just all women who talk to each other behind the plate at a baseball game, whichever — care only for shopping and go to ballgames only because their husbands make the mistake of bringing them along.
That being the case, it wasn’t our job to avoid “misconstruing” what you said; it was your job, Mr. Dibble, not to say it. Having said it, it was your job to recognize how it sounded (or if you prefer, how easily it could be “misconstrued”) and to apologize — not for the fact that people got offended, but for going on the air and clearly expressing the very views that offended those people. And you failed.
So, I don’t know. Is part of this reaction (from me and others) caused by the fact that Dibble is truly terrible at his job, a know-very-little blowhard deemed qualified for the job of saying things into a microphone on TV solely because he used to be able to throw a ball really hard, who mockingly dismisses rational thought at every opportunity?
Well, yes, probably. But then, aren’t those characteristics that make Dibble unbearable as a broadcaster more or less the same things that might lead one to say something horribly sexist on the air and then blame you for taking it the wrong way?