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Hey David Price, 'Nerd' Is Not An Insult

This article is more than 9 years old.

The Red Sox have beaten the Tampa Bay Rays. But before we move onto our next opponent, let's take a moment to reflect on an unfortunate episode from last weekend.

After losing Saturday's American League Division Series game to the Sox, Tampa Bay pitcher David Price said something he shouldn't have. He used the "N" word.

No, not that one.

A different, much less offensive expletive beginning with the 14th letter in the alphabet.

[Price] touched  a nerve that runs through American culture like a fault line: nerds on one side, jocks on the other.


First, confronting the press just after his team's loss at Fenway Park, Price smugly retorted, "Sweet questions, nerds."

The insinuation: You never played the game, George McFly and Mr. Spock. You clearly know nothing about baseball. You're not qualified to pass judgment on my game.

Then, later that night, Price dug himself even deeper. Following the post-game analysis he'd seen on TV, Price hurled another fastball insult at TBS commentators Dirk Hayhurst and Tom Verducci, via Twitter (in a since deleted tweet):

Dirk Hayhurst...COULDNT hack it...Tom Verducci wasn't even a water boy in high school...but yet they can still bash a player...SAVE IT NERDS

-- David Price (@DavidPrice14), Oct. 6, 2013


Off the bat, there are a couple of teachable moments here.

Price's rant was sent on Sunday at 1:07 a.m. Tweeting past midnight is never a good idea. Also not recommended: athletes watching analyses of their performances after they've played poorly.

Later that day, Price tried to take it back:

Save it, Price.

I mean, for one thing, get your facts straight.

Verducci is a far cry from "water boy"; in addition to being a TBS commentator and long-time writer for "Sport Illustrated," he was actually a walk-on baseball player at Penn State.

And, for his part, Hayhurst is a former MLB pitcher. Granted, his stats weren't exactly stellar (0-2 win-loss record, lifetime). But being a less-storied player than Price doesn't render his qualifications as a critic null and void. His line-crossing offense, apparently, was going on to become an author, and then a commentator. By Price's logic, it seems Hayhurst had become too intellectual in his post-play years. Verducci is also bookish: He a co-authored a tome with former Yankees skipper Joe Torre called "The Yankee Years."

Price's reaction was regrettable. And while his apology tweet sought to downplay his intent, in dissing these two analysts, he touched a nerve that runs through American culture like a fault line: nerds on one side, jocks on the other.

If you thought you left this clique-based social strata warfare behind in high school, think again.

It's an issue that David Anderegg tackles in his book "Nerds: How Dorks, Dweebs, Techies, and Trekkies Can Save America and Why They Might Be Our Last Hope." Computer geeks, writers and "thinker"-types have always been at war against those who find glory on the playing or battlefield. In Anderegg's estimation, the conflict boils down to an epic battle in American history between “Men of Action” and “Men of Reflection,” one that has roots going back to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and its protagonist Ichabod Crane, the John Quincy Adams vs. Andrew Jackson presidential race, Superman and the Fonz.

If you thought you left this clique-based social strata warfare behind in high school, think again.

As a result, we're torn. We say we want our kids to excel in school, sure. But we are highly suspicious — even hostile — towards the intellectual and the thoughtful. Not surprising, we're still falling behind other nations in reading, math and science achievement.

Our conflicting attitude isn't surprising coming from a country that feels, well, dumber than rest of the countries on the playground. A little muscle-flexing, a little bullying, makes sense.

Price's attack on Verducci and Hayhurst may have been thoughtless and knee-jerk. He probably hates having his performance dissected by anyone. Who wouldn't?

But in a weird way, he has every right to be threatened. The statistic-memorizing-number-crunchers likely do know more about baseball than he does. This is the age of "Moneyball" and sabermetrics (using empirical analysis to build better baseball teams) after all. Thanks to geeks, teams have discovered that something more tangible than gut or instinct wins pennants: stats.

Unfortunately, despite how someone like Price feels about nerds, there’s no denying it: they're winning. See: Steve Jobs, Bills Gates, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin.

I mean, the mere fact that Price is using Twitter to communicate with his fans proves the dweebs triumphed: they stole the beer, the stash, and the prom queen and moved the entire party to Jack Dorsey’s penthouse apartment in San Francisco.

Rather than turning it into a jocks vs. nerds showdown, then lamely apologizing, "Last night got out of hand," Price could have offered a different olive branch. He could have manned up, and admitted how he felt.

Perhaps, in the moment after the loss, and after facing the wrath of the nerdy press, staring at him behind their horn-rimmed glasses, slide rulers tucked in their pocket protectors, he could have said, "Guys, I'm feeling a little ... uh ... [gulp] ... vulnerable right now. Please, no more questions." That would have been an honorable, and brave, admission.

Of course, in another twist, it turns out Dirk Hayhurst is a nerd, after all!

"I was just a poor moisture farmer in the Dagobah system living underneath my foster parent's staircase," he says on his website's bio, "until an owl delivered to me a letter telling me I was invited to play baseball at a school infested with Force wielding vampires in Forks, Washington."

There's even a picture of him posing with "Star Wars" characters.


Nerd! Exposed!

I've saved the best irony for last.

When Hayhurst's memoir "Out of My League: A Rookie's Survival in the Bigs" was published, a famous sports figure weighed in with the glowing endorsement, "A must read!"

The blurber's name? David Price.


This program aired on October 10, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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