All-Star: A Cautionary Tale

After years of not caring about the Home Run Derby or the All-Star Game, I finally forced myself to do it. Well, force is a strong word, but let’s say I made it a priority.

I see it as a crucial step in getting back into watching the game, since it is probably the best opportunity to get to know players around the league and see what got them to “All-Star” status.

This week did not disappoint. The kid in me was ecstatic and just in pure awe during the Home Run Derby. I do not remember having so much fun, and I was cheering on for players that I have never cared for in the past (I’m looking at you, Max Muncy). You can’t write a better perfect ending than the home team”kid”, Bryce Harper, winning the whole thing with his father. It was memorable and a sense of baseball magic was in display.

I went to bed that night with a smile on my face and a sense of “I don’t want this feeling to end.” The next morning served as a reminder that I live in an adult world now and have the conscious awareness that with adulthood comes the duty of dealing with idiots.

Yes, idiots. Not even 24 hours after Bryce Harper became the Cinderella of baseball, in front of his fans, “accusations” of cheating emerged regarding his Home Run Derby win. Some of it was light hearted and a lot of it was not. I attribute it to the notion of “haters going to hate.” I chuckled at the lengthy articles and comments people posted. Seriously people…you have time for this?

The Home Run Derby was nothing compared to what was to come during the actually All-Star Game last night, and there was nothing light hearted about how the night ended.

The game in itself was great. Dominate pitching and hitting but a close a bit of a snooze fest that comes along with a low scoring game. Instead I focused on the dominance of the pitchers and took the opportunity to get to know them a bit better (Lord knows my team needs some pitching badly).

All was good until Milwaukee Brewer’s Josh Hader came out of the bullpen and gave up a three-run homer to Seattle Mariner’s Jean Segura to break up the tied game. In a short moment, baseball was not the focus anymore. A storm was brewing in Twitter (ugh, this again), over some very disturbing tweets that Josh Hader posted back in 2011.

I follow several sports writers on Twitter (as inspiration of some sorts) and my feed was inundated with responses and even articles in a span of hours after the ill fated homerun. No one was really focusing on the rest of the game, which by the way turned out to be Home Run Derby-Part II and Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman winning MVP honors in a 10-inning game. The focus was Hader and the hateful comments he posted.

Something about this is not sitting right with me. Does he deserve to receive the backlash for these comments? Yes. Does he deserve to face the consequences of his actions/words? Yes, we all do. Then why do I have a hard to joining in with others who are calling for accountability?

The fact that he posted these comments when he was a teenager (he is now 24 years old) does not excuse him of the consequences. He made the decision to leave those comments on his account years after the fact and even when he became a professional athlete. His apology was weak and the typical “I’m sorry, but that’s not who I am anymore” response. Honestly, what did we expect him to say? He was pitching one second, giving up a homerun another, and then answering questions about his hateful comments that I’m sure he forgot about (which is also troubling).

Again not excusing him, but I think we all jumped on the accountability wagon without seeing the facts completely through. Let’s try to view this from another perspective. People can post all the wonderful and nice things that they want and they we want to hear. What happens when we drink the kool-aid and find out that the person is not who they seemed to be? I’m sure we would want to hear the full story before making any final conclusions.

Look, I don’t know Hader and what prompted him to write those things and not take them down. If he said he’s changed well he now needs to show it. Not for us but for himself, because I don’t know many teenagers who would write those kinds of vile things if they didn’t believe it was true or have no concept of how much power are in their words.

The story continues to unfold and I continue to think about why I am unsettled by the whole thing. The fact that his family had to take off his jersey as a precautionary measure while still at the ballpark…the fact that a teenager posted these things…the fact that he continued to showcase bigotry with postings in 2016, the fact that he will always remember his All-Star experience because of this and having a teammate come to his defense. The fact is that this was supposed to be a joyous occasion and it turned out to be quite the opposite.

Instead of focusing on the good guys of the game (Bregman, anyone? Fine, how about Segura?), we are focusing on this. This isn’t about me and me love story with baseball, this is about the lessons of adulthood and what being under a national spotlight brings with it. This is about someone, for some reason, picking the All-Star Game to bring to light these tweets, which as we are reminded, were always there because Hader didn’t think about deleting them for whatever reason it may be.

Accountability these days comes with outrage and mob reactions. We rarely listen or allow people to respond, and even when they do, it’s never good enough. These types of things take time to understand. I truly hope Hader and others see the importance of ones words. Our words never simply affect just ourselves. Words, especially those written, will forever be a part of us and will always find a way to catch up to us in life. In Hader’s case it came early, and I truly hope this serves a higher good than to shame him.

When I was younger I would attach myself to a player. Tried to find out as much as possible. I wanted to be a fan. As an adult, I can’t afford that anymore, and if I decide to introduce children to the sport, how do I tell them about these things when I’m conflicted as it is now?

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