Earlier this week, my favorite baseball team signed a domestic abuser. The general manager spoke about the signing the next day, making it quite clear that he doesn’t take domestic violence seriously. This isn’t the first time my team has failed in this regard. It’s not the first time my favorite sport has failed in this regard.
Major League Baseball exploits minor leaguers. They are not paid a fair wage. The international free agent market is worse.
Front offices lack diversity and most of the people in power don’t care. They continue to hire from the same networks, passing over people who aren’t young, white men with affluent parents. Things are getting a little better, but things aren’t good.
The league and its fans patronize, ignore, and mock women who have the audacity to be fans. It’s better than it used to be, but there are still way too many women who don’t feel at home in the game. The scum show up every Sunday to complain about a woman in the booth.
Players uphold a code of honor by throwing projectiles at each others’ heads. They police said policing via fistfight. The league pretends to care and then markets the violence on social media.
Teams get local communities to pay for their stadiums while billionaire owners line their pockets.
There’s more, but that’s enough. Baseball as an institution is morally questionable at best, and downright corrupt at worst.
I’ve been asking myself over this past year when will it become too much? At some point, participating becomes acceptance. It becomes consent.
The game is beautiful. The rhythms are magic. The world’s best players compete against each other. They strategize. They execute. They succeed. They fail. Baseball, the game, is the best game there is.
But when is it too much? I haven’t watched an NFL game in years. Same with college football. Football is toxic and dangerous and the entities that make the games happen are evil. Baseball’s good has always exceeded football’s for me, but baseball’s good is not inoculation. When is it no longer ethical to stay?
It’s not just baseball. The world is presently confronting what we must do with the art of terrible men. But in some ways that’s an easier question. It’s simple enough to not watch Louis CK’s special. It’s easy to boo Aroldis Chapman or to turn off his games. But what do we do when spoiled meat taints the entire broth? When is it too much?
I didn’t stop watching the Tigers because of Miguel Cabrera. I didn’t stop watching because of Evan Reed. Or Alfredo Simon. Or K-Rod. I didn’t stop watching baseball after any single sexist or racist comment made by someone involved. I didn’t stop when Jered Weaver threw at Alex Avila’s head or when Carlos Quentin tackled Zack Greinke. There has always been a reason to stay. So much of the game is good.
What obligation do we have to the things we care about? Is it better to stay and wrestle with the forces that pollute the game, hoping to change them? Or is it right to stop supporting this system that profits from my eyes and dollars?
I don’t know the answer. But I’m struggling to find it. I don’t know if I’ll stop watching anytime soon, but I do know that I’ve grown increasingly alienated. I care much less than I did two, four, or six years ago. I’m too aware of the darkness to lose myself in the game’s light with any real frequency.
It’s good that I’m no longer blind to the flaws of this thing that I love. I was privileged, spending two decades seeing the game as good and pure. But we have a responsibility to see things as they are. And the truth is that most things, not just baseball, have a heavy dose of evil mixed in with the good.
Can I ethically enjoy things like that? Are there things to be enjoyed that aren’t tainted? Or am I left to chose between problematic enjoyment or no enjoyment at all?