You're Better Than That

at 12:35 AM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

I come from a politically conscious family of non-lawyers who argue like lawyers, whether it's over Iraq or who's doing their fair share for Mom. We're not yellers and screamers, but no one has ever described our disagreements as mellow.

Once I had a roommate named George who could argue with you, even strongly, and smile the whole time in a way that said "we disagree, but we're friends." For the last year, one of my many new retirement projects has been to spend a few minutes each morning practicing just such a smile.

The other day I was out at the Coliseum, rooting on my beloved A's, this being another retirement project. When Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier came to bat, a voice a few rows back modified the name into a taunt you can probably imagine, and his laughing friends, three likewise muscular guys in their early 20s, followed suit. I thought, "This is the Bay Area, somebody will say something," but nobody did.

A few innings later, the episode repeated. I was mad at the yellers and mad at the people around me for not being braver than I was.

When Kiermaier batted for the third time and the catcalls started, I stood up, faced the young men and with a smile and said, "Please. Could you yell something else?"


They fell silent. One of them said "What's the matter?"

"The homophobic slurs," I replied, still smiling. "You're better than that, right?" and I turned around and sat down. And to my astonishment it worked. No more slurs that time, no more during Kiermaier's final two at-bats.

Sure, it's a small sample size. Guys who really weren't better than that might have doubled down on the taunts or even accidently spilled their beers on me. And I'm not suggesting a smile will melt the hearts of the Koch Brothers. But for the private disagreements we have with family, with friends, with the people we know and the strangers we meet, perhaps the first option to consider is the gentle one.

With a Perspective, I'm Larry Rosenthal.

Larry Rosenthal is a retiree living in Berkeley.