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The Jack Johnson story is about many things, but none more emphatically than the meaning of manhood to the Anglo-Saxon imagination at the turn of the century.

Toward the end of the undervalued 1979 movie adaptation of former pro football receiver Peter Gent's undervalued 1973 novel, North Dallas Forty, a beat, bent lineman, played by the late Jo

Half a century has passed since Manny Farber wrote in these pages about underground films, by which he meant the urban crime movies watched by male loiterers near the Greyhound station, in theate

If we had four or five Abbott Joseph Lieblings in Iraq and Washington, it might be a different war, one in which those hugely amiable, observant and amusable souls could bring us the news that, y

We might provoke less violent demonstrations
If we invaded slightly fewer nations.

Just as Roger Clemens can be counted on to fire heat, our national pastime inevitably waves the flag in times of national stress.

Cultural changes and lucrative endorsements may explain a drop in activism.

Hinsdale, Illinois

Please convey to Mr. Robbins my appreciation for his position on Bush
and the invasion of Iraq. He and Susan Sarandon are putting their necks
on the line, and showing great courage. This is a lonely time for those
who oppose Bush's policies. I myself, a Vietnam vet (1966-69), have had
my patriotism questioned; when they find out my past, they shut up--but
why should that make a difference? Woody Allen made a movie about the
McCarthy era, and I recall watching it in a rather condescending frame
of mind, thinking "what was the matter with those people in the 1950s?
How could they be so persecutorial?" Well, those times are back. We all
have to fight this now. Robbins and Sarandon, by being famous, give
strength to others.

RICHEY HOPE


Richmond, Virginia

It is truly deplorable that such institutions as the Baseball Hall of
Fame are run by people who have no more tact than to use this sacred
institution as an instrument of their own political views to force their
opinions on the baseball-loving public. I guess we can only hope that
future Hall of Famers will also share Mr. Petroskey's political views
for fear that they will also be subjected to such actions. And thank
you, Mr. Robbins, for dispelling the notion that it is "un-American" to
disagree with the war. Indeed, there is nothing more American than the
airing of dissent of popular views in a public that seems wholly
unresponsive to public debate. I guess we can only hope that our local
cinemas don't subscribe to the same brand of "patriotism" that Mr.
Petroskey seems to favor. I for one like being able to choose the movies
I watch regardless of the political backgrounds of the creators.

DAVID MULLEN


Shelter Island, New York

Thank you for bringing attention to the Tim Robbins vs. the Baseball
Hall of Fame flap. I worked at the museum for nearly a decade, just
prior to Mr. Petroskey's arrival. I'm more surprised by the brazen
political nature of Mr. Petroskey's letter than I am by their decision
to cancel the event. This is a very conservative institution, run by a
conservative family within a conservative community. I think that just a
few short years ago Mr. Robbins would have had to do a bit more reading
between the lines. Democrats in Congress, celebrities and average
citizens are being intimidated. Conservatives are bolstered by the
arrogance and attitudes of Mr. Bush and his regime, and all debate and
dissent is trampled under the guise of patriotism and the need to
"support our troops." Attending my daughter's volleyball game at a local
high school the other day, I was shocked to see a poster on display in
the lobby which reads, "America, Love it or Leave it." It's deja vu all
over again.

FRANK CIRILLO
former director of exhibits and design, National Baseball
Hall of Fame and Museum


Flint, Michigan

As a current member of the Army Individual Ready Reserve who was
activated for the first Gulf War, I find Mr. Petroskey's comments and
actions to be utterly ridiculous.

I am sick and tired of neoconservative couch potatoes using members of
the military as weapons to further their own agenda. We have not only
the right, but the responsibility to question our leaders. This is a
democracy (actually it's a republic). This is not Saddam Era Iraq, where
the leader's word is law.

At the conclusion of this war, we will probably put on trial and execute
members of Saddam's former regime that unquestioningly "stood behind
their president and the troops." They will not be allowed to use that
trite phrase as an excuse for the atrocities they have committed.
Petroskey should stick to a subject that hopefully he knows something
about...baseball.

During the first Gulf War my friends supported me in two ways. My prowar
friends joined military family-support groups and my antiwar friends hit
the streets. Both were trying to help me in their own way and both
greeted me warmly upon my return.

When we fight and die, we do it for democracy and freedom. The men and
women who serve should not be discouraged by Mr. Robbins's comments.
They should, however be scared by Mr. Petroskey's actions. It is clear
that he seeks to do through the private sector what the goverment could
not. He seeks to prevent Mr. Robbins from exercising his constitutional
right to free speech. He hides his criminal acts, by dying them red,
white and blue.

It is Mr. Petroskey and those like him who threaten to undercut our
armed forces. And, at the risk of being labeled unpatriotic, I find that
I cannot stand behind the President's savage and unwarranted cuts in
veteran's benefits. As a former officer in the Texas Air National Guard,
he should be ashamed.

CHRISTOPHER GIL


Port Angeles, Washington

I was astounded at the childish action taken against Tim Robbins
(cancellation of the screening of Bull Durham on the occasion of its
fifteenth anniversary), a fine actor and articulate critic of the Bush
war on Iraq, by Dale Petroskey, president of the National Baseball Hall
of Fame. What on earth possesses so many of our self-proclaimed
"defenders of democracy and freedom" to become small-minded, insulting
and abusive when those freedoms are actually exercised? For the record,
I appreciate everything that Mr. Robbins said--except for that part
about the '69 Mets. To me it's the '88 Oakland A's that rank up there
with apple pie and the flag.

TIMOTHY L. HOCKETT


Bowling Green, Ohio

As an American citizen and a baseball fan, I find it insulting that the
president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dale Petroskey, would issue a de
facto gag order to Tim Robbins for expressing his political views. I
find it intriguing that a man who worked as an assistant press secretary
in the Administration of Ronald Reagan would intimate that actors have
no business in the political arena. While I consider myself a patriot,
if patriotism means the irrelevance of the First Amendment, then count
me out.

MATT STUART


Forsyth, Montana

It is refreshing to see organizations standing up and holding "actors"
responsible for what they are saying from their highly visible platform.

Tim Robbins doesn't represent baseball fans or the majority of the
American people. While he challenges President Bush (and others) for not
serving in the military, he neglects to say he isn't a veteran either. I
am...and I very much support our Commander in Chief, President Bush. If
the decision had been made during the Clinton Administration to control
the problems in the Middle East, then President Bush wouldn't have to
clean up the mess.

Hopefully, Tim Robbins will get the point that he represents only about
20 percent of the American people. The very same people who are voicing
their opinions because of the stand our current and former Presidents
should have made to protect our freedom.

Freedom will continue to ring, but with no thanks to Tim Robbins.

LARRY J. TRICKEL
SGM (Ret), US Army


Munich, Germany

My deepest respect for Mr. Robbins for his letter to the head of the
Baseball Hall of Fame (or rather "Shame"). News from the USA sounds more
and more like historical pieces from Germany in the 1930s. Unbelievable!

RALPH MOELLERS


New Orleans, Louisiana

I just want to thank Tim Robbins for utilizing his position in the
public eye to say what needs to be said. I can only hope the Baseball
Hall of Fame feels a shred of embarrassment for its behavior. I am from
a family of die-hard Chicago Cub fans and we are all outraged by Mr.
Petroskey's blatant misuse of a national institution--baseball!

PHOEBE KESSLER


Brisbane, Australia

I found this conflict between Tim Robbins and Dale Petroskey
interesting. The scary thing seems to be that the propaganda of the
mainstream media, including here in Australia, seems to be obvious as
just that to some and not at all obvious to others. Petroskey's may be a
political statement to protect himself, but I wonder if he has simply
bought all the patriotic huff and puff that seems to be muddying truth,
logic and common sense. The same thing happens here in Australia,
especially this expression of belief in free speech on the one hand but
the denial of it in practice.

Thank you for a good read in The Nation. Without you and other
independent media, we would be overwhelmed with spin and lies (which are
probably the same thing).

EUGENE MOREAU


Bellevue, Washington

Regarding your calling for condemnation of the Baseball Hall of Fame
over its decision to cancel an appearance by Tim Robbins, isn't YOUR
condemnation merely the pot calling the kettle black?

Tim Robbins has every right to his opinions, but the right of free
speech doesn't mean that others are obligated to listen. The Baseball
Hall of Fame and its owners also have the right of free association,
which they exercised by disinviting someone they considered a boor.

The left has often called for boycotts of organizations, individuals,
and groups which it finds offensive...as is its right. Again, how
hypocritical (crybaby-ish, even) to complain when the Left is boycotted.

I support, and will defend, the right of the Tim Robbins, Martin Sheens,
Jeanen Garafolos, Susan Sarandons, et al, among us to have their point
of view and to express it without fear of GOVERNMENTAL oppression or
physical violence. However, I also support the right of anyone who
decides to never watch another movie or otherwise provide financial
support for those actors whose views and attitudes they find offensive.
How can one feel otherwise if one truly believes in freedom of thought?

Alan Dershowitz once remarked that we should create a Bill of Rights
Club, where members had to agree to support exercises of rights even
though they might find the particular exercise repugnant. Based upon the
articles I find on The Nation website, I don't think that many on the
left would be eligible for membership.

JOHN CLIFFORD

"I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport."

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