The people of Boston are not known for their sensitivity or political correctness. When third baseman Pablo “Panda” Sandoval showed up to Red Sox spring training with that beer keg belly, they lit the Internet on fire with enough fat shaming to cause an epidemic of bulimia triggering over at Jezebel.
Panda has a long history of showing up to play with a little extra girth. Which is fine if he was delivering results, but he just came off a terrible year and I don’t think that extra mass is going to improve things for him this season. Comparisons to chunky players of the olden days are not helpful at all here. Babe Ruth could be fat because there weren’t really any ‘roided up super humans in the league with him. Extra weight means slower speed and dudes in the majors are faster than ever.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has had a few hefty heavyweights do well, notably Roy “Big Country” Nelson. But even he seems to have adjusted his terrible diet and tried to come in lighter in his last fight.
As a skinny person, I know my opinion on another man’s fluffiness will be met with some serious eye rolling. But here’s the thing. I know I can outrun that dude and if I was his weight I couldn’t. If your income depends on being fast, it seems like you’d want to be faster.
Think of it this way: is a heavier car, motorcycle or bicycle ever an advantage in racing? No. It’s just physics. Is that shaming? Should we ignore facts that shame? Is there a better way to deliver them? Probably, but that delivery style doesn’t get many clicks on social medi because the Internet loves haters.
People should be able to separate a weight- based criticism of Panda’s performance from a statement of his personal worth as a human. It should not raise any eyebrows to say something like, “if Panda lost 30 lbs he would play better.” That’s entirely different from saying something like, “when Panda sits around the house he really sits around the house.” But there are people out there who don’t see the difference because they’re either over or under sensitive to language.
I keep returning to this issue of patrolling language. I care deeply about free expression, but I’m also committed to trying not to be a dick. It’s valid to criticize unproductive fat shaming of celebrities because somewhere there’s probably a kid that’s a few stones over where he or she’d like to be and they feel like crap because they think the entire city of Boston hates them for how they look.
Philosophically, I’d rather live in a world where you could hurt anyone’s feelings at any time than a world where you can’t say anything without fear of punishment. But I ‘m also not a person who’s being bullied or made to feel like shit (though I have had my own experiences with assholes; my method for dealing with them was to get meaner than them and better at life).
What do you think, is Panda a fat bastard or is he less than optimally shaped for performance? Does that distinction matter if you’re a Red Sox fan?