Here’s what happened: Masahiro Tanaka, the brilliant Yankees pitcher, was making Red Sox hitters look futile. (In my opinion, he’s the best they’ve got.) Up in the broadcast booth, Ron Darling, the former Mets pitcher doing commentary for TBS, thought he detected a lessening of Tanaka’s pinpoint control. Lacking overpowering stuff, i.e. velocity and movement, Tanaka needs precise location to be effective.
“Chink in the armor for Tanaka here,” the announcer said. “It’s the first inning he has lost a little of his control.” Whoop, whoop, whoop! Clang, clang, clang!
Racial grievance monitors at the Daily News, Yahoo Sports and a few other media outlets signaled a red alert. An opportunity to wreck the announcer’s career with an absurd allegation of bigotry presented itself.
To the Daily News, Darling’s “boneheaded comment” was only made worse because the announcer “did not appear to realize that he had used the slur in reference to Tanaka, who is Asian.”
Actually, it’s the cliché alarms that should have gone off. Like every phrase I’ve used to describe Tanaka’s performance—“pinpoint control,” “overpowering stuff”—the expression “chink in the armor” is a familiar sports expression.
Maybe it’s possible to describe an entire baseball game in witty, original phrases but I don’t believe I’ve heard it done. Indeed, the very familiarity of baseball jargon is part of its appeal. Everybody knows what it means.
Alas, “chink” has in latter days evolved into a homonym. That is a word spelled and/or pronounced the same with divergent meanings—“horse/hoarse,” “deer/dear” or “clink,” which is both a noise and a jail cell. Context is all. English seems to have more of them than any other language.
The other meaning of “chink,” is of course offensive—a derogatory reference to a Chinese person dating to the late 19thcentury in America, and probably derived from the Chinese language itself, as in the “Ch’ing Dynasty.”
OK, enough pedantry. In context, what Ron Darling, himself an excellent pitcher for the New York Mets back in the day, was saying—and ALL he was saying—was that Masahiro Tanaka appeared to be tiring, and that if his precise control faltered, the Red Sox might light him up.
Nothing more or less.
Any other reading is both perverse and malicious.
As somebody who grew up in the shadow of World War II, I certainly heard anti-Japanese slurs in my youth. But “Chink,” as one of my Arkansas country boy friends likes to say, “Not never one time.”
Nevertheless, and probably wisely under the circumstances, Darling, a Yale graduate who has written actual books, took the easy way out. He apologized. “Earlier (Saturday night),” he said in a statement to Yahoo Sports “I used an expression while referencing Masahiro Tanaka’s recent pitching performance.While unintentional, I apologize for my choice of words.”