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.
The All-Star Game and all the hoo-ha surrounding it has come to our fair city and has now departed.
While I would not say I was consumed by the festivities of this week, I did stay tuned to the proceedings.
I spent a good part of a day at the DHL Fan-Fest at the Javits Center. While the lines were unbelievable, and I could not get anywhere NEAR a former All-Star, there were some interesting displays about the history of baseball, including women in baseball. (See my daughter, above. She’s in a league all of her own!)
I also sat down and watched Josh Hamilton’s dazzling “performance” in Round One of the Home Run Derby, and I suffered Jeanne Zelasko and the FOX network long enough to see some of the current and former players in the parade preceding the game.
Oh, and I did stay up until about the 12th inning or so last night for the game itself. David Wright was correct: many of us were asleep, but I’m still grateful he wasn’t sent to the mound by Clint Hurdle. We’ve got a pennant race to get serious about after all of this tomfoolery, David!
And what tomfoolery it was. The Yankee fans really did themselves proud for this occasion.
At Fan-Fest I observed rather rude and selfish behavior and comments from Yankee fans. I wondered if they felt the need to “mark their territory”, figuring the All-Star Game had nothing to do with the Mets and their fans and I didn’t have a right to pay my money and attend like everybody else.
Moving on to the Home Run Derby, the churlish fans let it be known that they felt slighted by Giambi’s absence in the contest. Chants of “We want Ja– son!” filled the stadium. (Although Giambi was invited to participate in the Derby even though he was not selected to the team, he was far away in Las Vegas.)
Also at the Derby, the classy Yankee fans booed Chase Utley. What was THAT all about? I mean, I could maybe understand it (if not approve of it) had the Derby been at Shea in front of Mets fan who have been cursed with Mr. Utley’s deadly at-bats too many times to count. Obviously, Utley was incredulous about his reception as well:
But Bombers fans saved their very best Bronx Cheers for the various Red Sox players’ and Terry Francona’s entrance onto the field at the beginning of the game itself…never mind that those players and that manager were about to play for the American League All-Stars and that, presumably, those fans would like to see their League prevail.
I imagine ballplayers are used to being booed away from home–particularly within the infamous Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. However, I doubt team mascots are used such catcalls.
Perhaps motivated by frustration at not having their OWN mascot (that would NEVER happen on the hallowed grounds of THE CATHEDRAL or within the Yankees’ organization), these boorish fans made cute, cuddly, VOICELESS(!) mascots the target of their jeers before the Derby.
“Mr. Met sucks?”
Why don’t you pick on someone your own (head) size?!
So much for putting aside our differences and joining together for a little fun and amicable good sport.
Makes ya REAL proud to be a New Yorker, huh? Fuhgeddaboudit!
…actually, avoid two potential ones all together!
Honestly, I am not a fan of interleague play in general and of Yankee-Mets matchups in particular.
But I did enjoy a sidebar story that came out of this weekend’s Subway Series:
the transport of the Mets and Yankees players from Yankee Stadium to Shea Stadium during rush hour on a Friday afternoon and how it affected fellow New Yorkers.
Because of a rain-out during the previous Subway Series at Yankee Stadium earlier in the season, the Mets and Yankees faced each other Friday afternoon at Yankee Stadium for a make-up game. Then, that evening, both teams (and the media) had to get to Shea Stadium for the first of a three-game Subway Series there.
The personnel’s inter-borough journey would’ve been a challenge on any day and at any time of day, considering the busy corridor they needed to traverse and the bottlenecks that occur far too often upon it. Yesterday, however, presented a few additional challenges: the first game was a very long one–almost four hours, and (2)their expedition was to take place on a Friday night in the summer. While Friday afternoons are always “getaway” days and usually times of high volume on the roads, the problem is compounded in the summer when many are getting away to the beach or to the Hamptons.
Anticipating the gridlock that would be created, an industrious Newsday writer covering both games, brought his running shoes and made the inter-borough trip by foot. He later shared his colorful story with readers.
I also read of a couple of fans attending both games who had a rather unique strategy for the day: they intended to imbibe at Yankee Stadium and empty their bladders at Shea Stadium. Hmm.
My family’s challenge did not involve a time element: we were attending only the second game. However, one should never underestimate the challenge of travelling from New Jersey to Queens with there being a game at Yankee Stadium. Not having the physical conditioning to even consider a foot race and disliking crowds and traffic in general, our family was not sure we even wanted to FACE the challenge.
Therefore, my husband–with his family’s approval–attempted to sell our tickets for Friday night’s game on StubHub. This was one game we all figured would be best viewed in the comfort of our own home on high definition television.
When the tickets did not sell, however, we changed our minds and decided to brave the masses on the road in order to attend.
We gave our time of departure much forethought. It was decided that the best way to avoid the traffic created by fans departing Yankee Stadium following the first game would be for us to be well on our way BEFORE the end of the first game.
As it turned out, our strategy not only afforded us a more or less routine trip to Shea, but it unexpectedly provided us the opportunity of sailing by Yankee Stadium–southbound on the Major Deegan Expressway–at the very MOMENT that Carlos Delgado hit the first of what would be two home runs for the Mets–this one a grand slam! As I quickly opened the sun roof, we all three screamed, and I vigorously waved my Mets cap.
When we arrived at Shea, there were many fans already there. It appeared that others were aware, as we were, that it had been arranged that both teams were to travel by bus with police escort from the Bronx to Queens with road closures being scheduled during their transition.
Arriving at Shea without any of the logistical snafus we had envisioned and feared, it was actually delightful to, later, find out some details about the two teams’ post-matinee conveyance–both on the radio and in the newspapers.
Although traffic was halted enroute to the Triborough Bridge and on the other side–on the Grand Central Parkway–to ensure a quick trip for the players and the members of the media who accompanied them, apparently many drivers along this route were well aware of the purpose of the stoppage. Many of the presumably inconvenienced drivers were not scowling, waving fists or the like. Rather, they were leaning out of car windows, yelling cheers of encouragement and flashing player jerseys in signs of recognition as the buses passed.
As New York Times sportswriter George Vecsey so wittily observed in his column today:
Normally, I hate it when traffic is blocked in New York because some presidential candidate is mooching campaign funds in our town. Over the years, I have had a few paranoid thoughts and words and gestures toward assorted Bushes and Clintons, Gores and Kerrys, when some bridge or parkway was inexplicably shut down. But it’s different when traffic stops for something socially redeeming, like a baseball team.
It had to be a redeeming feeling for Mets officials, too, knowing that their arrangements had enabled the Mets to play in the Bronx until about 6PM and walk into their Club House at Shea for their 8:10PM game having taking only twenty-eight minutes door-to-door! (Apparently, the Mets had made similar arrangements for the team travelling TO Yankee Stadium that morning: a trip that had taken only seventeen minutes!)
If only Mets officials could collaborate in such a way as to assure a Mets’ victory…sigh.
We’ll get ’em tomorrow.
Although it’s getting harder and harder to do if you’re a Mets fan, this is my attempt at finding the silver lining in what has been an abyssmal patch of grey clouds that no weather system can seem to push through. If Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters don’t lift your spirits and level of optimism, consider the following:
1. Marlon Anderson is being proactive about emphasizing the team’s viability in a pennant race, even with their current record. That’s not high-on-acquiring-Santana-as-our-ace Carlos Beltran giddily proclaiming the Mets the team to beat, but it is a testament to the fact that the passion is still there–to win and to motivate others to do so–at least in some of the players.
2. As frustrating as Billy Wagner’s recent performances have been, at least he cannot be accused of being hypocritical: he’s waited to meet the press after every single disastrous outing for a an honest self-flagellation.
3. Other than his gaffe resulting in his needing a late pass to Sunday’s game, Ramon Castro has made very positive contributions in his last few starts.
4. Even though his plate appearances have been inconsistent, Carlos Delgado has shown signs of a renewed commitment to getting his uniform dirty.
5. Johan Santana did not get seriously hurt when he was hit by a pitch two starts ago, and he didn’t get hit in his start yesterday.
6. No matter how dreadful Ollie Perez has been lately, at least he pitched more innings in his last start than Joba did in his last outing.
7. Departing Shea earlier because the bullpen blows it means avoiding late-inning concessions, thereby saving me huge wads of cash and gobs of calories. Speaking of huge wads of cash, it’s at least worth mentioning how much money our family stands to save if we are not purchasing post-season tickets.
(As I said, I’m looking for the silver lining, however THIN it may be.)
8. Leaving the game prior to the eighth inning, I can avoid entirely the insipid Eighth Inning Sing-Along to the strains of a lame Monkees song that is pitched in such a low key as to render its sing-along properties more or less useless.
9. An early departure from Shea means I get out of the parking lot quickly and am home in record time.
Wait! I was attempting to accentuate the POSITIVE!
O.K., a bonafide reason to be upbeat:
10. Mike Pelfrey’s awesome start on Wednesday night.
Pelfrey’s performance had so many feel-good things about it: the fact that he’s a “home grown” product; the fact that he pitched eight scoreless innings and even got upset with Willie Randolph when he thought he was not going to be allowed to start the ninth; the standing ovation and cheers Pelfrey received when he came out to the on-deck circle to bat in the bottom of the eighth–an obvious indication that Willie had acquiesced to Pelfrey’s insistence he should stay in the game; a standing ovation WHEN HE STRUCK OUT; and–yes–even the chorus of loud boos Willie got when he removed Pelfrey after he allowed the first batter to reach base in the ninth: indicating a crowd that was really into the game and tremendously supportive of a pitcher for once.
(Regarding the latter, I am guessing that more fans than not realized the terrible disappointment it would’ve been had Pelfrey allowed another hit and thrown the game away or was given a loss for his remarkable outing. I sensed the booing was less about questioning Willie’s managerial move than it was a way of showing Pelfrey support. That’s why I actually felt kinda good about the boos at that particular time.)
Although Pelfrey did not get that win, he showed the fans, he showed Willie Randolph, he showed Rick Peterson, and he showed himself just how far he’s come.
That’s huge for the Mets: the 2008 Mets and beyond.