Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Arizona, All Stars, and Anti-Americans

(photo stolen from MLB.COM where no photographer is attributed)

Today is the 82nd annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I've never really liked the All-Star game or the All-Star break. The All-Star Game, probably because I was raised by my dad, who felt it was a silly waste of time: after all, it meant nothing when I was growing up, and was a break from the serious business of 162 games of competition. Now that it "matters" in terms of home-field advantage for the World Series, I still don't really like it. I used to love taking dozens of the old school ballots from the men at the top of the aisles at the game and punching out my favorite players during the A's games. Without fail I chose the A's players, or players on our Rotisserie league team, or my favorite players from the baseball cards I assiduously collected. Occasionally I would fill a ballot out for my dad with wiser selections. I was a sentimental voter, and it turned out I was just like everyone else voting: the picks are meaningless precisely because they are popularity contests. Every year players who are on the disabled list get picked because they're Big Names or from Big Name Teams or because they had Big Years the year before, even though they aren't the best at their positions. It's understandable, but doesn't make me like the All-Star game any more. Punching those ballots was fun. Then the voting went online. Gone was the tactile feeling of the hard paper and the little hanging chads, and gone was any shred of interest I had in the voting. The A's radio announcers urge me to vote online for the A's top possibilities- this year Coco Crisp and Josh Willingham, and I feel scornful: really? top possibilities maybe, in AAA baseball! And somehow the voting changed this year, though I can't follow it at all. I gave up altogether, but I'm confused every time the Phillies' announcers tell me that Shane Victorino is in the running for some last available roster position. And any interest I have in making sure the "right" players are selected, that the team is accurate, is gone. The All-Star team is a popularity contest. I'm an anti-establishment non-joiner. Lame.

But there's more to my cynical dislike of the All-Star game than the strange grade-school popularity contest feel of it all. The All-Star game is three days where MY season is interrupted. For six months, I'm deprived of my day-to-day livelihood. Then I get into the swing of it, and about 90 games into it (for some reason the All-Star game comes a little more than half way into the season), I am forced to sit on my hands for three full days. WHY? The players have a whole season off. Why do they need three days? The announcers don't need it, although they sure sound like they do when they talk about their vacations to Mexico and the shore. Is MLB prepping me and the other diehards for winter? Just a little taste of mourning? Or are the rest of the fans itching for this, this spontaneous exhibition of frivolity in the middle of the season? Somehow I doubt it. The real fans, at least, I think are about real baseball. This is a game, a show, a show of a game, not working at play.

So this is why I'm not into the All-Star game on a normal year. But this year, I'm particularly perturbed by the All-Star game, as it's hosted in Arizona, by the D-Backs. Although it appears that progressives may have forgotten that Arizona has declared itself anti-brown, and over a year ago, I wrote about the issues with hosting the All-Star game in Arizona. This article, also from May of last year, touches on some of the issues of hosting a major sports spectacle in Arizona. Besides the immense amount of money that MLB will implicitly approve being poured into the economy (while other jurisdictions and companies are still boycotting the state), brown players ask "why would I want to go there as an All-Star, simultaneously being honored and potentially being asked to leave because of the my skin tone?" (my paraphrase) Great question! Last year, stars like Adrian Gonzalez said they would not take the field in the All-Star game (see the awesome Edge of Sports piece on his subsequent flip-flop) because of SB 1070's "immorality."

Ultimately, though, Major League Baseball decided they didn't care about morals, or racism, or really much of anything besides the bottom line. I'm not sure who reached this decision, or how they came to it, but they did, and the player's union followed suit. Per Zirin of Edge of Sports, Gonzalez was always going to follow the Player's Association's lead, and the Player's Association started out by talking big about a boycott, but wasn't really going to follow through. There's money in it for the individual players in the form of All-Star bonuses (whether the players compete or not) and there's obviously tons of money in the event for Arizona and the D-Backs, and lots of money in the All-Star break (including the Home Run Derby and whatever else they're doing, I don't really keep up obviously) for all of Major League baseball. If you open up the MLB site right now, you can't possibly keep track of the sponsors. I'm sure the same was true if you watched the broadcast. It's no Superbowl, but the sponsorship is pretty intense.

So where does the anti-American part of my post come in? Scroll back up to that picture at the top. It's Robinson Cano, New York Yankee and winner of yesterday's Home Run Derby, and the man who pitched to him, his dad, Jose Cano, former Major League pitcher. Both of the Canos were born in the Dominican Republic. And made/make their living in the most American way possible: playing at the sport of baseball. Look at the picture again: it's a portrait of patriotic pride that even I can get behind. Father and son, in jerseys that say "American," as in "American League," but the point is not lost, triumphant with trophy. The men are two shades of brown, and I have now told you that they were born outside of the United States, but they are being celebrated as American. I mean, even their shirts say so. But they are being celebrated like this in Arizona, where, though race may not be considered as a "sole factor" in deciding when to verify immigration status, it can still be used as a factor. The "sole factor" wording is a work-around for racial profiling. I am willing to bet Mac on the fact that I would not be asked for any proof of residency. Jose and Robinson Cano, on the other hand, without their jerseys and entourages, might very well be, especially if a truck was pulling over to them on a corner (the law prohibits hiring people on the side of the road).

Dave Zirin also boycotted the game today. I proudly join him as an anti-baseball, anti-American. I'm waiting for someone to tell me to go back to Iran. Or Cuba, or the Dominican Republic. But not Arizona, because I'm not American enough.


David A Wishinsky said...

I was upset that no players ended up boycotting it. What a travesty.