There was a lot going on in Atlanta last night for Major League Baseball to be embarrassed about…a lot.
First and foremost, of course, was Kevin Pillar’s apparent use of what people have been rather euphemistically calling a “homophobic term” when what we should be calling it is hate speech. Now, I love Kevin Pillar and I deeply respect what he’s accomplished in his career, how far he’s come, and what he means to the Blue Jays and to their fan base. And I know that what he said on the field last night is a word used by a lot of (most?) ball players in the locker room all the freaking time. But I don’t care, he should be suspended, fined and made to publicly apologize to the queer community and to their allies; he should beg to be included in Toronto’s next Pride parade, and the Jays should donate a bucket-load of cash to organisations supporting queer kids at risk.
Then there was the pathetic display of grown men threatening to punch each other because they were upset. Anywhere else in the world and that sort of conduct is ridiculed and, with any luck at all, subject to criminal charges.
And then there was the even more pathetic display of someone getting a ball thrown at him in some kind of fuzzily Old Testament notion of eye for an eye justice that nobody anywhere else in the world thinks is even remotely sensible, useful or non-criminal.
There was also, as a capper, the usual furor raised by the opposing team when a Latino player dares celebrate a home run. Did that hurt yoo widdle feewings? Shut up and stop whining, especially if you’re Jace Nobody Peterson or Kurt Never Been Anyone Suzuki. Of course, the worst thing about the bat-flip flap was that people were even talking about it as a thing at all when we already had the truly significant issue of hate speech in a Major League game to contend with. Some of the dumber voices on Twitter even went so far to equate the two.
Lost in all this, however, was the particular atrocity that really should be front and centre every time a team faces Atlanta (or Cleveland for that matter) and that–of course–is the team’s offensive name and the even more openly racist conduct of their fans.
I can’t believe that the name wasn’t changed years ago. I can’t believe that the fans are still actually encouraged by the team to enact racist parody. Then again, this is an organisation and a city and a fan base at the very heart of Trump’s America so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at all.
But Atlanta is just one team in a larger organisation: one that has done nothing to tackle the homophobia entrenched in the game, only slightly more than nothing to address the open racism of many players and fans, and which has for decades allowed teams like Atlanta and Cleveland to keep their stupid names, mascots and antics. According to the standards apparently acceptable to Major League Baseball, I would like to suggest some names and marketing strategies for any future expansion teams:
Fans can be encouraged to wear brightly coloured kippahs on their heads and to brandish large foam rubber menorahs. They can sing, “Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl” in the seventh inning and scream “Mazel tov!” at every home run and “Oh vay!” at each strike out. They can have Half Price Shabbat Night (“Because We Like To Watch Your Shekels Too!”).
New Orleans Negroes
Fans can come in black face and sing minstrel tunes. When the opposing team is ahead they can scream out, “You watch out now, y’hear? We gunna come git you!” There can be Soul Food Night with watermelon and fried chicken.
New Jersey Ginos
The mascot can be Mario. When their pitcher strikes someone out they can scream, “Budda boom budda bing!”
If those suggestions offend you, good for you: it shows that you are a human being with a functioning brain and sense of empathy.
If those suggestions offend you, but you still support Atlanta and Cleveland keeping their names, logos and fan antics, then you really need to rethink things.
If those suggestions do not offend you then you voted for Trump, right?