October 4, 2020

Calcaterra: "Where, Exactly, [Do] Great Ballplayers Go For Their Lobotomies In Between The Time They Play And The Time They Become In-Game Analysts?" (Team Owners, Most Of Whom Contribute To Republicans, Should Explain If/Why They Support White Supremacy)

Craig Calcaterra's Cup of Coffee, his daily baseball newsletter, to which I subscribe, was free to all this past Friday

Among other things, he wrote about Alex Rodriguez, announcing, and self-awareness and about sports team owners who give lots of money to Republicans.

Some of it:

On A-Rod

. . . I liked A-Rod as a studio talking head when Fox first began trotting him out in the role a few years ago. Despite his generally off-putting persona as a player, the post-suspension and retirement A-Rod was looser, goofier, and brought with him a pretty refreshing perspective as an analyst. . . . It helped, of course, that he knows baseball really, really well and has the kind of stature which allows him to call out players at times without fear of someone getting too pissed off. . . .It was appealing.

I have not watched A-Rod much since he became ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball analyst. That's less on him than on ESPN's baseball production as a whole, which is damn nigh unwatchable. It's a talk show with a ballgame in the background, with the ballgame itself sometimes serving no greater role for the broadcast than the fake New York skyline did for David Letterman's show. Wait, that's not true. At least Letterman would engage the skyline by throwing pencils and notecards at it. The ESPN booth will sometimes go innings at a time in which they seemingly do not realize a game is actually afoot. [Calcaterra also wrote about Enola Holmes, so he's tying it all together.]

I do have to listen to A-Rod in the postseason, however, and when I do, I wonder where, exactly, great ballplayers go for their lobotomies in between the time they play and the time they become in-game analysts.

The most notable case of this was Joe Morgan. He was the greatest second baseman in the history of the game and his offensive reputation was built on a foundation of unparalleled plate discipline, considerable power, and all of the little things guys who are into advanced analytics value. Yet, the longer he called games for ESPN, the more and more he came to disdain plate discipline, power, and all of the little things guys who are into advanced analytics value, as opposed to small ball, hitting to contact, and all of the things that decidedly did not make Joe Morgan the greatest second baseman in the history of the game. There's no law that someone has to be self-aware, but it was weird to me. That's just how he rolled.

A-Rod seems to be falling into the same patterns. I think it may even be a more extreme case than that which afflicted Morgan. . . .

All week A-Rod has been talking about the need for teams to play small ball. To bunt. To hit the ball the other way. All of that stuff you expect to hear from Joe Simpson or guys who, when they played, didn't have great talent but managed to carve out a nice niche for themselves because of "intangibles" and small ball skills. It's understandable on some level that those dudes would elevate the skills which allowed them to find the success they found. It makes absolutely no sense that A-Rod would take that tack, but he does, often.

Perhaps the most absurd example of it came yesterday, during the bottom of the eighth inning, when he, as he had over the previous two days, called home runs "empty calories" and implored the Braves hitters to lay down bunts and stuff. He offered that "empty calorie" line literally seconds before Marcell Ozuna — the NL home run king for 2020 — hit that two-run bomb that iced the series for Atlanta. One mildly self-deprecating comment later, he was back on a "no, seriously, you have to do the little things" jag, at which point Adam Duvall hit another two-run homer. So, yeah, that's how that went. . . .

When it comes to politics in sports, follow the money

The return of professional sports in July and August was occasioned by a newfound visibility of social justice messages in sports. Whereas once the notion of protest was enough to get a player blackballed, now movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement are being embraced. . . .

But it only goes so deep. Sure, NBA players can alter their jerseys and no one is (publicly) called out for kneeling for the National Anthem, but if you think the real powers that be in sports are on the side of people of color or those without power, this article from USA Today about the political donation patterns of sports owners will begin the process of disabusing you of that notion:

USA TODAY Sports reviewed the political contributions of 183 owners from 161 teams across MLB, MLS, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and the WNBA. The filings show that owners have collectively given at least $14.6 million to federal candidates during the 2019-20 election cycle so far – with nearly 86% of those funds going to Republican candidates and causes.

There was, arguably anyway, once a time when this would not necessarily constitute a disconnect. A sports owner donating to Republican politicians at other times in our history might have at least made a plausible case that supporting them due to some economic or national security reason, say, did not mean that they stood opposed to social justice, racial justice, and the proposition that Black lives do, in fact, matter.

It's preposterous to say such a thing today. Not when, just this week, the President of the United States refused to denounce white supremacist hate groups like the Proud Boys, and virtually every Republican politician and/or candidate for office have either defended him in doing so or remained silent on the matter. As a result of Trump's and the Republicans' very words and deeds, it's clear that one can support racial justice or one can support Republicans, but one cannot support both. At least coherently.

The owners of sports teams who have made such donations should be asked to answer for that. Indeed, everyone who gives money to Republicans at this point in history should be asked to answer for it. They should be asked if they support white supremacy and, if they say no, they should be asked what is so important to them that their preferred candidate's support of white supremacy is not a dealbreaker to them.

Reading this last bit reminded me of Andray Domise's column in Maclean's (May 2018):

If You Vote For A Reckless Politician, You Can't Claim To Be A Good Person

[A] a recent study conducted by Steven V. Miller of Clemson University and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M University found that white people who would not want immigrant or non-white neighbours were more likely to oppose democracy. Moreover, they were "more open to rule of government by the army," or by a "strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections." (The study, by the way, was conducted from 2011 to 2016, before Donald Trump was elected President.) In a follow-up article for NBC News, writer Noah Berlatsky summarized this effect as a tendency of white voters to pull away from democratic institutions, when marginalized people are perceived as benefiting from democracy. "When faced with a choice between bigotry and democracy," wrote Berlatsky, "too many Americans are embracing the first while abandoning the second."

The study dovetails with previous evidence to show that white people with racial hang-ups are more supportive of harsh punishments in the criminal justice system, and less supportive of social service programs, when they perceive racialized minorities as the targets of those programs. Prejudice isn't simply a matter of personal preference, and it doesn't park itself at the ballot box. Voters who elect populist right-wing politicians—and who know they've proposed or support policies that are likely to harm broad swaths of the population—aren't good people forced into a bad decision by a disdain for politics. Harm against those groups are their politics. . . .

It hardly matters what a voter's intentions might have been when they cast a ballot for bullies and panderers who have no moral objections to making life more difficult for the marginalized. Regardless of the intent, if the pain of marginalized communities is less important than jamming a finger in the eye of the so-called elites, that voter has signalled to politicians that inflicting pain is a sound campaign strategy.


johngoldfine said...

I wonder if Morgan and A-Rod are unconsciously bemoaning today's often-tedious Three True Outcomes baseball in their call for a return to small ball.

allan said...

Morgan had been doing it for decades, though.

allan said...

Love it!!