Argument could be made over which was the most unlikely phenomenon of November 2016 – the election of Donald Trump as President or the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Time will tell, of course. But there may be some positive lessons from the latter event that carry into our collective political world going forward. Hopefully The Donald’s one-time interest in owning the Minnesota Twins will yet translate into a true interest in the well-being of all potential fans of the national pastime, regardless of race, sex or creed.
No doubt the recent political season was full of foul balls and sometimes foul language that even an old barnstorming ballplayer might have found embarrassing. Bull Durham’s Nuke LaRouche looked cerebral and genteel compared to some of our presidential candidate performances. Sure baseball has sign stealing, beanings and even occasional bench-clearings, but almost always they turn into more dustups than brawls.
Which brings me to my point: The game must go on according to rules that ultimately benefit both teams or all sides. We also might mock or even appear to hate umpires but we also recognize their necessity. Imagine if either the Cubs or Indians had refused to accept rulings on the field during the Series? Even worse if they had refused to accept instant replay’s best empirical evidence (climate change parallels?) what might it have meant for our ability to continue the national pastime?
Our body politic might benefit from remembering some of the same messages going forward. We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that were designed to benefit us all. We have government and a judicial system designed to serve various purposes, but most importantly to be an umpire making calls that are fair to all and let the game continue.
Interestingly, baseball has certainly grown to accept diversity amongst players on the field. The recent Major League playoffs saw an encouraging mix of Asian, Latino, black, and white stars. Meanwhile the premiere of a new fictional TV series focusing on the rise of a female pitcher gave hope that another barrier may soon be broken.
Baseball, like America, does have flaws and room for improvement e.g. getting rid of Cleveland’s “Wahoo” logo. The Major Leagues in general, again like the entire nation, need to continue confronting racial, economic and gender divisions that often keep a full diversity of fans from our ballparks. Calvin Griffith’s awkward (at best) Waseca speech description of how blacks weren’t coming to ballgames at Washington D.C.’s old Griffith Stadium did convey some truth that still continues.
Calvin got badly, and perhaps correctly, burned for his remarks and for other shortcomings in addressing baseball’s racial divides. But I believe even dinosaurs can evolve and I heard and saw very different attitudes from him in his later life. Maybe there is hope that even President Donald Trump can rise above his grievious remarks about women, gays, handicapped and various persons of colors and faith.
It may now seem like a lot to expect. Many are understandably planning resistance strategies to possible abuses of power. No one should accept a “rigged” game.
But all of us, including people who voted for Trump, also have a shared stake in making sure the game goes forward according to a level playing field that benefit us all. True fans of the game and our country remember that fairness doesn’t belong to just one team and cheaters who justify their actions by comparing them to other infractions are still just cheaters. Privileged members of both political parties, have clearly sometimes forgotten that – ringing up strikes against their credibility.
They also forget an ongoing basic baseball rule at their own peril: Three strikes and you’re out.