When the media seeks political commentary, it does not usually turn to sports figures. But professional sports and politics collided rather unexpectedly about ten days ago.
Outrage met the release of a salacious Access Hollywood tape in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard making lewd misogynistic comments and boasting of having perpetrated acts of sexual assault.
“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago…I apologize if anyone was offended,” was Trump’s initial statement.
Athletes in locker rooms everywhere took umbrage at these words. They saw his feeble mea culpa for what it was: a desperate attempt to vindicate his behavior and language by implicating all men in general and–by using athletes’ place of employment–male athletes in particular. They saw this as a personal and collective affront and quickly took to mainstream and social media with searing denunciations.
We have a “locker room code,” stated Dominique Wilkins, former NBA player and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer. He and numerous athletes spoke to CNN about the self-policing principles that make the locker room environment one in which such language is simply not tolerated.
Former NBA star John Amaechi, speaking recently to NPR, enumerated the topics typically discussed in the locker rooms he had inhabited:
We had conversations that were about politics, that were about the systemic racism, were about the tax advantages of living in Florida as an athlete. These things came first. These were the things that we talked about.
In a blistering blog post for Vox, former NFL player Chris Kluwe delineated the parameters of locker room discussions. Kluwe has written a scathing indictment of Trump. I would encourage you to read the entire piece by this gifted writer and published author. But one point of his piece I found particularly arresting:
See, that’s another big thing we talk about in the locker room. Accountability. In a professional sports environment, all of us are accountable to each other. We’re a team. If one of us messes up on the field, it affects everyone. Just like if a president makes a bad decision, it affects everyone. And do you know, Donald, the only way the team wins games? The only way we win is if, in the locker room, we’re willing to accept that accountability, address our mistakes, and work as hard as we possibly can to make sure those mistakes don’t happen again.
We don’t double down on a shitty play simply because a small portion of the fan base got excited by it. We don’t try to carve the team apart from the inside to appease a certain position group. We don’t blame our mistakes on something someone else did, because if we do any of those things, we lose, something you’ve become intimately familiar with on a personal, financial, and political level, and I’m not having too many difficulties reviewing how that happened to you on the game film.
John Amaechi was more succinct. Asked what would be the result if such vulgar language and admission of sexual assault were to be heard in the locker room, Amaechi said:
There would be absolute silence. And then any leader in the room – unless this was a locker room devoid of leadership, somebody would step up and say, by the way, what you’re talking about is abuse. It is not cool.
So, for those keeping score, the Republican candidate has now maligned Hispanics, Blacks, people of color in general, immigrants in general, Muslims, Gold Star parents, members of the Judiciary, his party’s leadership, women, and now athletes.
I would suggest that he has wronged the New York Mets as well, albeit indirectly.
I submit for your consideration the photo below. It’s a very painful moment of our shared history as Mets fans. You’d rather turn away, I know. But take your hands down from in front of your eyes and look beyond the still bat in Carlos Beltran’s hands and the elated Yadier Molina.
Yup, that’s him.
Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS.
Finally, behind this moment that until now had defied all explanation we see a logical, if perverse, narrative.
Let’s call it what it is:
The Curse of Donald Trump.
Castigate Carlos no longer: the real object of our ire and disdain should be the character behind the umpire, not in front.
Donald Trump cost us that series–and that year.
I’ve solved the enigma today, October 19th, 2016: exactly ten years ago to the day of this moment.
How to best describe Game 162 at Citi Field yesterday?
tion, along with his wife.
Between the money the team will save by eliminating stewards, attendants, medical staff and insurance for the shuttered seats (about $130,000 per season) and the extra ad revenue it may earn, team owner Stefano Fantinel says the experiment “will pay for itself very soon.”
What I didn’t see mentioned in this article is the fact that screen-printed PVC tarps do not produce general crowd noise nor respond with a collective roar for great plays. Conversely, the concocted fans presumably do not boo poor plays nor heckle players.
I recently had the pleasure of being extended an invitation to write a guest post for another blog devoted to the New York Mets: Mets Gazette. I was honored to have been asked, and my response is included in a regular feature of Mets Gazette: “The Pulsipher of the Nation”.
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As grateful as I always am to take a vacation, and as much as I love that our family shares a passion for ballgames and the Mets, our family’s tradition of following the Mets for numerous roadtrips each summer is killing me.
With our season ticket package at Citi Field, we are at virtually every home game. But for many summers now, we have taken advantage of the fact that my daughter is not in school nor am I working in the summer and have planned and taken vacations based around Mets away games.
In our various sojourns, we have seen the Mets play at every National League ballpark with the exception of three: AT & T Park, Coors Field, and Busch Stadium. We have also seen the Mets play in several Americal League venues and in Spring Training games at Port St. Lucie. In addition to seeing all those games and ballparks, we have also been to nearby venues: National Parks, art museums, science museums, historical sites, amusement parks, aquariums, zoos and animal parks, beaches, and restaurants featuring regional fare.
We’ve been granted rare access to our favorite players in ballparks having more lenient rules for observing Batting Practice and getting autographs. Due to generally lower ticket prices at other parks compared to Citi Field prices, we have been able to sit in even better seats than we do at Citi Field. Both of those amenities have afforded me the opportunity to shoot photos from some amazing vantage points. The photos I have returned with have become some of our most treasured souvenirs.
Additionally, we’ve had the unexpected pleasure of running into friends (and teachers!) from home in some faraway places. We have made the acquaintance of other Mets fans, and we have met and had conversations wtih members of the media. Last summer, while covering the team for the Daily News, Adam Rubin (who is now a journalist for ESPN-NY) was seated across the aisle from me on our flight from San Diego to Phoenix. In 2007, SNY-TV’s Gary Cohen happened to be seated behind me on our outbound flight from New York to Pittsburgh; we approached him at baggage claim (where this photo was taken.) Both journalists were very personable, and we had the most delightful conversations with each of them!
This all sounds like the makings of dream vacations, right? How lucky am I to see so many Mets games?!
Here’s the problem: for all the delights–both planned and unexpected–neither wins nor a favorable standing in the NL East by the time the planned roadtrip is made is guaranteed. The heartbreak of having to watch terrible losses or a scrappy team that is way out of it–all without the support of an entire stadium of fans with which to commiserate–can be painful or even excruciating.
Last year’s trip: a four-game series in San Diego followed by a three-game series in Arizona late in the season was particularly disappointing baseball-wise with the Mets having so many regulars on the DL and the team being so far out of contention. Maybe paying the big bucks for a small prop plane tour over and into the Grand Canyon was our way of salvaging the trip…for ourselves, if not for the team.
While this season’s pre-All-Star-Game Spector Family Roadtrips–Washington, Baltimore, and Milwaukee–provided some wins and some unique opportunities (such as seeing the rookie Stephen Strasburg in a game in Washington), the final trip, to Los Angeles, was a struggle for the team and, therefore, for me.
Losing three out of four was no fun. Neither was having Dodger fans in our faces during every exit from Dodger Stadium following the game.
The two-day trip to Disneyland prior to the series, scheduled primarily for my daughter’s enjoyment, proved to be the highlight of the trip for me as well. Let’s just say that Dodger Stadium could not be mistaken for the Magic Kingdom in any way . Even our enchanted knuckleballer–the unexpected knight in shining armor of the starting rotation, R.A. Dickey–was not allowed conjure up his deceptive magic for very long, being yanked early in his start there.
Sometime following our return from L.A.–in the midst of one of the games during the frustrating homestand just concluded, perhaps around the time I and other fans found out that Mets ownership declined to take any action prior to the trade deadline–I snapped.
“I think I need a break from these Mets roadtrips,” I told my husband and daughter. “Having to suffer Mets losses–both home and away–are killing me.” .
No doubt, when the 2011 season is announced, I will salivate at potential trips and this low point will be long forgotten. But if we do decide to declare a moratorium on Mets roadtrips, I can think of one immediate benefit (besides not having to suffer losses without the home crowd): seeing those away games on SNY and hearing the great on-air talent of Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen.
I know those guys will always follow the team for me…win or lose.
I once played in an All-Star Concert.
The ensemble was not designated as such, but it met the definition in all respects. As you can see in the image to the right, a sticker put on the plastic jewel case containing a recording of the group’s concert attested to the fact.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, an orchestra–dubbed the “World Orchestra for Peace“–conducted by Sir Georg Solti, was assembled for a performance surrounding the celebration of the anniversary in Geneva, Switzerland. For this inaugural UN concert in 1995 (there have been others since), every single one of the players Solti invited accepted immediately. The players represented 45 orchestras, from 24 countries:
The concert opened with Rossini’s Overture to William Tell (a nod to the Swiss Tell). It was followed by Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. (Bartok and Solti were not only fellow Hungarians, but Solti was a student of Bartok.) The concert concluded with vocal soloists and chorus joining the ensemble for the rousing finale of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in which freedom and peace are celebrated by newly-released political prisoners and jubilant civilians.
‘…I picked the Beethoven for the qualities of brotherhood, liberty and humanity, and the Rossini overture as a homage to Switzerland, but the Bartok for a number of reasons. Not only is he one of my favourite composers, but he also encompasses the whole world: his music is very Western, but based on an Eastern culture.’ Sir Georg Solti
To get a taste of the concert (available both on video and on audio releases), watch this video clip of the William Tell Overture performance. What a fiery and dynamic performance Solti led! Those amazing trombones! The delicate pianissimos!
By the way, you can catch a glimpse of me from 5:34-5:48 as I respectfully listen to the English Horn soloist to my left.
I have so many wonderful memories and stories from my participation in that event, but–like David Wright‘s wide-eyed anticipation about playing tonight on the same team as his child-hood idol Scott Rolen–one of the highlights of the experience in Geneva was performing alongside one of my idols of the oboe for as long as I had been a student of the instrument: Richard Woodhams. (I recently wrote a post comparing Woodhams’ illustrious oboe playing and his preeminence in the world of woodwind playing to that of Sandy Koufax in the realm of pitching.)
Subsequent World Orchestra for Peace concerts have taken place, not always with the same musicians. Although I was again invited to participate, I could not participate beyond the initial year because of the Metropolitan Opera schedule.
But I have the CD, the DVD, and the memories of making music on a stage filled with “big league” instrumentalists from all over the world, under the baton of one of the greatest maestros of all time.
With diplomats and dignitaries from many countries (including Yasar Arafat), it was a special day and, truly, a red carpet event. Speaking of which, I’m going to now watch the Red Carpet parade of All-Stars in Ahaheim, followed by the All-Star Game itself.
Let’s go National League!