Outer Gardener Skips Rose Garden!In June, 1984, several days after the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship, President Ronald Reagan held a White House reception for the team. The scheduling was not ideal, as the event was held at noon the day after the Celts' victory parade in Boston.
Larry Bird did not attend the event. Possessing somewhat greater political and social skills than George W. Bush, Reagan made no mention of Bird's absence.
Back in Boston, yours truly was at the Phoenix, working on a piece on the Celtics' victory, when the phone rang. An earnest young man identified himself as a writer for the than-as-now earnest and excellent liberal political magazine "Washington Monthly." Did I know Bird had missed the White House reception? I did. Did I know if this was a political protest?
That was a stumper for a few seconds. Bird's political opinions, if any, were not something that ever crossed my mind as a subject for journalistic inquiry. Eventually, I allowed as how like anyone from Indiana with money, to the extent Bird had political leanings, they were Republican.
I ventured a guess that Bird had skipped this ceremony because of the afterparty for the victory parade, and was in all likelihood still in bed, nursing a hangover as large and vicious as a Boston Garden rat. In any case, Bird's motives for snooting a presidential invitation were purely personal.
The guy on the phone was very disappointed. So was I. A freelance piece entitled "Larry Bird-Closet Leftist" would have been remunerative.
This history is why I cannot believe that even the barrel-bottom scrapings of WEEI callers are able to make an issue out of Manny Ramirez not attending a similar White House ceremony for the 2007 Boston Red Sox this week. Manny's critics, both professional and amateur, cannot have it both ways. They customarily depict Ramirez as a childlike airhead who is only vaguely aware of the time-space continuum of our universe. Now, all of a sudden, Ramirez is a committed advocate of world revolution who has a portrait of Fidel Castro in his minor league baseball uniform hung atop the mantelpiece.
It doesn't wash. Nor should it. Memo from James Madison to Manny's detractors: When the President asks you to his rented home, you don't have to go. He's not the boss of us. Most people do go, because it is an honor, but it's not mandatory, and regrets can be sent for any reason-political or otherwise.
My guess is that Ramirez, unlike his would-be host, had better things to do with his time.