Tag Archives: sports

The Astros Sign Stealing Scandal and the Importance of Baseball to American Life


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Walt Whitman wrote:

I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.

Baseball, can and should be that, but over the years as a culture and a country we have largely abandoned it in favor of more violent, and supposedly faster paced sports like football, which should be more honestly named slow paced, up-armored Rugby. True football is what we call soccer, a sport where every player, not just the kicker and punter can kick the ball, and where use of the hands to stop the ball by anyone except the goalkeeper is a penalty.

There is a lot going on in the world and in our country worth writing about today. I could write about the coming impeachment trials, the Democratic Party presidential race to the first primaries and caucuses, the crisis with Iran. They are all worthy of writing about. However, something troubles me more, because the issue goes to the heart of who we are as Americans, and what we have lost. That was revealed in the last few days when it was revealed that the Houston Astros and quite likely the Boston Red Sox have been implicated in a scandal that goes to the heart of the game, and to the heart of us as a people, and it is reflected in our culture, our politics, our religion, and the way we do life.

In the film Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones playing the character Terrance Mann, loosely based on the great author J. D. Salinger remarked:

The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.

But the latest scandal involving the upper management of the Astros and Red Sox has probably done more damage to the game than the 1918 Black Sox scandal, and the Steroid Era combined. This time upper management used technology to compromise themselves, their players, and the game itself. No member of the Astros and Red Sox World Series winning teams will escape question, including some of the best recent and young players to have played the game. The actions of A. J. Hinch, Alex Cora, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Luhnow, as well as others certainly to be implicated have harmed the game, and show the depravity of our win at all costs culture, embodied so well by President Donald Trump and our business elites. In sports this has best been seen in the NFL and both the NCAA Football and Basketball organizations, where it is all about winning, and money, with little regard for the players.

With the evidence released when the Mets parted ways with Carlos Beltran  after he was named in, but not suspended by MLB in their investigation of the Astros sign stealing scandal. At the time Beltran was a player, but video showed him along with other players watching the videos from the Center Field Camera as signals were being sent to batters. Another whistleblower revealed that at least some, if not all Astros batters had a buzzer embedded in their uniforms to alert them to the type of pitch coming.

I am sorry, call that whatever you wish cheating, and it is on a scale greater than the Black Sox Scandal of 1918 which resulted in the permanent suspension of eight players for life, including Shoeless Joe Jackson who played an amazing World Series but who was also illiterate, meaning that he probably did not understand the contract he signed to throw the Series. Likewise, the fact that the Pete Rose scandal, which involved his personal betting on games, did not significantly influence his teams record and got him banned from Baseball for life. Yes I will go even father, the PED/steroids scandal which ruined Hall of Fame careers for men who would have magpie it to the Hall of Fame with or without them pales in life significance to this scandal because all of the fact that it was so widespread in MLB. The reality is that all the great players stained with PEDs would have made the Hall of Fame without them, while hundred if not thousands of others, without their degree of talent never saw an increase in their performance tells me that talent, not drugs, was still key to the success of players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons. You don’t have to agree with me, but those are facts. In this case it was upper management, the team Manager, coaches, and b players working together to cheat.

As much as I dislike the Evil Dodgers and Yankees, they did not deserve to be cheated out of League or World Series championships by teams that cheated using technology to skirt the long-standing taboos of Baseball that stealing signs is illegal, immoral, and ignoble, especially when the entire management and many players are in on, is simply dishonorable.

My judgement, and yes I used the word “judgement” not feeling, is that the players who participated in this scheme, even those who turned a blind eye to it need suspensions and reprimands, and maybe bans from playing or participating in the Major Leagues, or any minor league teams associated with a major league franchise. If that applies to Shoeless Joe and the rest of the Eight Men Out, to Pete Rose, and the men who would based on their records be in the Hall of Fame even without their use of PEDs then these men, who did this in the playoffs and World Series, need to be punished even more severely. MLB and the teams concerned need to ban the participants in this cheating scheme from baseball. They need to do what  the NFL and NCAA by and large refuse to do.

Baseball is essentially a peaceful and pastoral game, that when onne understands it makes a part of your heart. It is timeless in a time in an age where time is the enemy to be defeated. It is relatively slow paced, like reading books and classic literature, listening to well reasoned speeches and debates like the Lincoln Douglas debates, debates of substance, not sound bites. It is the fact that most Americans regardless of their political or religious beliefs revel in memes and sound bites, violence and speed, rather than reason, reflection, and respect for our institutions, laws, and conventions which have led us to today.

President Trump and his authoritarian Presidency didn’t just appear out of thin air. Our culture, changed. We came to value short term profits, social Darwinism, and amoral violence conducted by men in uniforms, some military, some law enforcement, and some in sports. They vicariously live the violence that we worship as the cornerstone of power.

Bill Veeck, who was the owner of a rotten White Sox franchise for years said:

Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.

I hope that Major League Baseball makes a clean sweep. The National Football League hasn’t done it, but if baseball does it may again become America’s game, and it may bode well for our society as a whole, even more than religion or politics. I hate to say it, but I have to admit that I have come to like soccer as much or more than baseball. Yes, FIFA has its corruption, but it’s a game that is very hard to cheat at, regardless of the amount of technology available, and the desire to win.

By the way, in 2017 I wanted the Astros to win, without knowing the full story of how they got there.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, ethics, faith, film

Reflecting on the Best Of American Sports Teams

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The United States Women’s National Team, was simply the best and I continue to be in love with them.

They were derided before the tournament, mostly by male commentators. Their one of a kind outspoken veteran star player and co-Captain was viciously attacked in public statements by the President Of the United States, and they were criticized by others for their dominance and love of the game and love of team. I have never seen any winning team in any sport so derided for their unity, their dominance, and their ability to win against some of the best teams in the world, including Sweden, France, and England. In the final they defeated the Netherlands team which had played brilliantly the entire tournament, never trailing in a game until Megan Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick in the 61st minute of the championship game.

Their victory today was more than a victory for their team it was a victory for the proposition in the Declaration Of Independence that all people are created equal. In addition to winning they forced the hand of FIFA to increase the financial aspects of the game to women, doubling and then quadrupling the amount of money dedicated to the women’s tournament.

Beyond that, these women, and the members of the team over the past quarter of a century have blazed a trail of excellence that is hard to match. Forget about the men’s Olympic Basketball “Dream Teams”, made up of the best players in the NBA, no one cared when they ran up scores, dominated, and celebrated their wins. Forget the United States men’s Baseball team who cannot win or come close to winning an international tournament because the MLB owners won’t let their best players compete, or the U.S. Men’s Soccer team which has never gotten past the semifinals in the World Cup despite more funding and higher salaries than those of the USNWT.

The U.S. Women speak for more than sports. They speak for the equality of the Declaration, and the rights of women (and men) everywhere who are discriminated against because of gender, race, or religion. By the way when I speak of gender I don’t just talk male and female, but also of my LGBTQ friends, brothers and sisters.

This was a special team. They had a lot of detractors, including former teammates, but they showed their metal and won, in a convincing manner. They scored the most goals ever by a women’s treat in World Cup history and only allowed three goals against them in seven games. They defeated three of the highest rated teams in the world just to get to the final. They dealt with age and injuries, and still showed a joy for the game, love of team, and yes, patriotism, even the kind of which is unpopular and makes authoritarians uncomfortable and angry.

In that, Megan Rapinoe, the object of so much of President Trump’s disdain, won both the tournament’s Golden Boot for the most goals and assists, as well as the Golden Ball as best player of the tournament. As a patriot who believes and hopes for the best that our country has to offer, I hope that she and the team refuse any invitation to Trump’s White House. They fought for too much to surrender those victories to a man who would use them for a photo op and then continue to speak badly of them.

Congratulations to the American Women who won the Women’s World Cup and so much more, this year, as well as in 1995, 1999, and 2015. They all deserve our respect, appreciation, and admiration; but especially this team, for they are the face of ALL United States Soccer. They are the people who have inspired American women and men to compete at the highest levels of soccer worldwide.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, leadership, LGBT issues, Loose thoughts and musings, News and current events, soccer, sports and life

Bigger than Jesus? The Super Bowl at 50

  

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Judy and I watched the Super Bowl with friends last night at our version of Cheers, the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restuaurant. Now for Judy, she wasn’t doing much watching, as she is an artist and has no interest in football, she drew. For me the game is more of a social event. If pressed I would watch the game at home, but even so football for me is just a sport. Football, for all of its popularity is not the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, the church of baseball. 

Now speaking of church, if you look at the polls, the United States is one of the most religious nations outside of the Middle East in the world. But despite the fact that polls generally report that about 40% of Americans attend church weekly, actual church, or religious service attendance according to multiple studies is actually closer to 18% or about 52 million people a week, and that is all denominations. If the pols were right that 40% figure would be about 120 million people a week, but people lie to polls. 

According to pre-game estimates some 189.9 million Americans will watch the game. The total amount of money that will be spent on the game will exceed $15 billion. That number does not include the amount of money that will be spent on gambling, online betting, or Super Bowl pools. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average view or partygoer will spent about $82 on food, decor and team apparel. My friends, that is a lot of people and a lot of money, and if you measure faith by spending, that is a lot of faith. As Feregi Rule of Acquistion number 104 states “Faith moves mountains…of inventory.” 

But let this sink in for a moment and think about what this says about our culture. I mean really, the Super Bowl celebrates power, celebrity, money, and violence. Please do not get me wrong, I do think that football, like all team sports can teach good life lessons, the value of teamwork, hard work, and excellence. But that being said, there are many instances at every level those who promote the game teach the wrong lessons. In college many players are given a pass on academics in order to maintain their eligibility to play the game. The use of Performace Enhancing Drugs plagues the game, and drug testing regimes of the NCAA and NFL are woeful. Acts of violence committed off the field by players, and sometimes even coaches are commonplace, and many go unpunished or with a slap on the wrist. If everyday people committed these acts they would not be rewarded with massive contracts, and in some cases sponsorships that pay great amounts of money. Even so there are many players who are outstanding citizens who lead exemplary lives, and who give back to the community. One can never forget them even as we offer legitimate critiques of the football culture at many levels.

Then there is the physical cost to many of the players, those crippled so badly that they can only walk with great pain and difficulty, those that suffer from CTE and other brain injuries, including various forms of dementia. It seems that every moth that more and more of these stories are coming to light. The late Ken Stabler, the legendary quarterback of the Oakland Raiders was the latest big name player to be known to suffer for this. The lives of many NFL and even Super Bowl greats are littered with such tragedy, and until recently the NFL did little or nothing for the men whose on field performance and sacrifice made it what it is. One has to wonder how different we are from the ancient Romans who rebelled in watching gladiators slaughter one another, with little hope of survival. 

But all that being said, the Super Bowl and everything associated with it is great entertainment, even when the game is not that great.  The truth is that as for teams playing in the Super Bowl I had no dog in the fight, and I was not impressed with either team’s offense. Neither Peyton Manning or Cam Newton were impressive, Manning because he is not what he once was, and while the Bronco’s defense was outstanding, Carolina played a conservative game never took advantage of Cam Newton’s running ability. Thankfully the game was not a blowout, and it did hold my interest, but it was nowhere close to being one of the greatest games ever played.  Denver won, but despite that I was not impressed. I have seen a lot better played football and Super Bowl games. 

But then maybe that is a metaphor for where we are in our society. We spend our time and money to be entertained watching a game that profits the NFL, which since the 1960s has been tax exempt, and its Fortune 500 advertisers, much more than it does the players who sacrifice their bodies and minds on the gridiron, or the stadium employees who work for a pittance at every NFL venue do, even when the game fails to measure up to the hype.

By the way I wonder just how much money Payton Manning was paid to say that he was going to “drink a lot of Budweiser” after the game? I mean really, a rich guy like Peyton drinks a crappy mass produced beer? But then there is no accounting for taste, and it could be the effects of one too many concussions. But I digress…

But as Rule of Acuisition number 69 says, “Ferengi are not responsible for the stupidity of other races.”  I think that the NFL has figured that one out. Who knows, maybe unlike the Beatles, the Super Bowl might actually be bigger than Jesus. I doubt if you will hear Roger Goodell or anyone in the main office being quoted as saying that, as it might be bad for business, and that would be tragic. 

Anyway, until tomorrow. Have a great day.

Peace, 

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, football, News and current events, sports and life