Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thoughts on the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs and Donald Trump on the eve of Baseball Season

It's been - for those of us who care about the nation's standing in the world, about civil rights, or simply about civility - a dark time in the world. There is a measure of joy coming around the corner in that we're nearing the eve of baseball season, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training just three days from this snowy Friday. So, fear not, I'm here to tarnish the pure joy of the baseball season by dragging politics and sexism into it, as we continue to understand how we elected an unrepentant sexist to the world of baseball.

Baseball and election seasons ended with an interesting statistical footnote from our friends at the 538 blog; on October 30, down three games to one, the forecasters at 538 gave the Cubs the same odds of winning the World Series as they gave Trump of winning the presidency. We all know what happened; the Cubs stunned the world with their first World Series win in over a century before Trump stunned the world again on November ninth. This isn't the part I see as interesting. What I see most interesting reflects something I said moths earlier about the New York Mets, and the ease with which we accept blatant sexism.

At the game, with girls. This is why I'll not cheer
a domestic abuser
For those who don't remember, last summer I wrote about how I booed New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes because of accusations of domestic violence against him - accusations which arguably were the direct cause of his availability to return to the team. It's a small and subtle stand, but still not an easy one to take; in the stadium with him at the bat in a big moment there was tangible excitement in the crowd, the PA system leading the "Jose, JoseJoseJose... Jose, Jose" chant from all those years back when he was a young superstar. It's an easy moment in which to get caught up, and particularly in a big moment, in extra innings, needing a run. I booed, but I was in a minority; the crowd cared more for the orange and blue within the diamond than the actions outside of it.

This brings us to another domestic abuser, Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs, he of the 105 mile-per-hour fastball. The big, strong arm brought halfway across the country from the struggling New York Yankees after they acquired him at a bargain price because he'd fired an actual gun during a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. When he stepped onto the mound the crowd cheered. Loudly, vociferously. Apparently without reservation. Midway through the season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs on their way to the first World Series they'd see in over a century. Those of who watched saw over forty-thousand fans at Wrigley Field cheering for a man who missed the first third of the season for firing a gun at his wife. This is a thing we've taught eachother to do: to compartmentalize. To set aside our inner sense of decency and support "our team", right or wrong.

It's fandom.
It's politics.
It's patriotism.

Some of the same people who would cheer for Reyes or Chapman, for Rothlesberger, for Kobe Bryant, for so many other professional athletes who've mistreated women over the years, these are the people coming to the ballot box. Those who identify with "team elephant" saw the elephant next to Trump and went with the team, even if the man behind the symbol was imperfect.

This might not be overt sexism, but it's hard to read it as anything other than sexist. To support Trump, to cheer for Chapman or Reyes, to ignore those who have in words and deed caused harm to women is, of not hostility, indifference. Indifference may not be the same as active hostility, but it certainly does not represent support for the safety and decent treatment of women.

I've already chosen to no longer cheer for Reyes and his ilk, to speak against him. I'm hoping some of my fellow fans will join me, and my fellow Americans will learn to stop burying our decency beneath our fandom.

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