All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players —As You Like It, William Shakespeare
In a sadly predictable development, Major League Baseball is going the way of the Woke, with players kneeling during, or before, the playing of the National Anthem, donning Black Lives Matter T-shirts and uniform patches, and repeating inane Leftist talking points about that most ephemeral beast who stalks the poisoned American landscape: “systemic racism.”
Politics has now infected just about every nook and cranny of American society. Conservatives must steel themselves whenever they attend a sporting or cultural event, or indeed any social gathering, in preparation for being compelled to listen to some sort of lecture or demonstration on America’s sins (i.e., the White Man’s sins) and often for being cajoled into participating actively in some Leftist ritual decrying their and their ancestors’ alleged wrongdoings. To baseball fans, the arrival of Wokism should not be a surprise, as nearly all Major League teams had already caved to the LGBTQ ideology by holding “LGBTQ Days” at their ballparks and providing “sensitivity training” to players at all levels of their systems. In addition, the movement to ban the “offensive” logo of Cleveland Indians, “Chief Wahoo,” has been gaining steam for some time. It is inevitable that if you build a field of politically-correct dreams, Wokism will come.
When the kneeling-in-protest phenomenon began in the National Football League, conservatives and other sensible people who objected to the practice typically argued that this was a sign of disrespect to the military in particular. Perhaps, but kneeling is more broadly a sign of disregard for the country as a whole, and that means indifference to our common bonds as Americans. But even more accurately, allowing politics to invade sports shows contempt for one’s fellow man, a function of the wildfire-narcissism of our times.
Indeed, the virtue that we perhaps most lack in American society is a sense of selflessness, an awareness of our role in any given situation, a concern for the wellbeing and comfort of others around us.
The best piece of advice that can be given to baseball players, to anyone, is this: “It’s not about you.”
Of course, baseball has been gradually abandoning this principle for some time, as players have adopted the kind of unseemly showboating after home runs (and even singles!) that once seemed confined to the NBA and NFL. The old “baseball code,” which had its heart the idea that a player never showed up another player, has become an object of mockery by baseball announcers and analysts, who denounce any attempt to limit the players’ “right” to have fun. And fans at major league parks in large part believe that their ticket purchase entitles them to behave as raucously as one wishes and to shout any sort of obscenity at opposing players.
Now, players are “showing up” not only pitchers off whom they hit home runs, but fans themselves who ultimately pay their (often exorbitant) salaries. Why would any hired performer—whether clown, stage actor, or sportsman—want to anger and alienate a large segment of his audience and foster division among those who have come to enjoy his performance? The answer is… ego. Somewhere in their souls these athlete-activists want to feel important, to feel that they are not simply hired hands who possess mere physical skills good only for playing something that is a mere child’s game. They know deep in their hearts that they aren’t really deep people at all, and that bothers them. Like the news reporter who has now almost universally become a raging political sage, like the college professor who now in most cases attempts to indoctrinate and not merely teach, like the computer programmer who often spouts his political views endlessly on social media, the modern athlete is not content with his humble role on the great stage of life; instead, he seeks self-validation and ego-nurturing though virtue-signaling.
In the fall of 2016, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the popular Broadway show, Hamilton, and was lectured by the cast from the stage after the performance about the supposed wrongheadedness of his policy positions. In response, Steven van Zandt, guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band—and a vocal political Leftist—rebuked director Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Audiences shouldn’t have to worry about being blindsided like that. This sets a terrible precedent. Completely inappropriate. Theater should be a safe haven for Art to speak. Not the actors. He needs to apologize to Mike Pence.”*
Mr. Van Zandt was exactly right. Conservatives understand and agree with him; could we have imagined before this year pro-life groups demanding that MLB paint “Baby Lives Matter” on pitchers’ mounds (as MLB is doing this year with “Black Lives Matter”)? Or conservative Christian players (of whom there are many in baseball, though apparently few courageous ones) kneeling in protest during the National Anthem because of the great crime of abortion permitted by the United States? No. Because conservatives generally understand what the young George Washington wrote at the top of his “Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation”: “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” We wouldn’t dream of irritating our fellow fans who, like us, have come to partake in the communal experience of enjoying a ball game.
Common-sense baseball fans yearn for a player to stand up to the Woke madness that threatens to engulf the sport. Where, for instance, is today’s Carlton Fisk, who as a member of the White Sox once threatened, right there on the diamond in the middle of a game, to beat up the Yankees’ Deion Sanders for his lackadaisical play?
While we await the appearance of such a courageous soul, we conservatives are likely to choose not to subject ourselves to browbeating by the players we came to see simply play ball.
Update: After writing this essay, the author learned that Sam Coonrod of the San Francisco Giants refused to kneel because of his Christian beliefs.
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*”Steven Van Zandt Calls on ‘Hamilton’ to Apologize to Mike Pence,” Rolling Stone, November 19, 2016.
The featured image is a screen shot from YouTube.