The Nub

Team Obama, Ball Fans and the Taste for Violence

(Posted: 2/27/12; e-mail update 2/28)

 The late comedian George Carlin came to mind when Bruce Bochy ordered Buster Posey to avoid the blocking the plate while a runner is trying to score.  It was Carlin who contrasted football’s love of violent terms – “blitz, medical ” “bomb, usa and ” etc. – to baseball’s affection for the gentle “sacrifice”, cure “home”, and the like.  Carlin’s take notwithstanding, we know about the violent side of baseball.  Runners upend middle infielders, just as they try to knock over catchers.  The rough and tumble can lead to a broken leg, as happened to Posey, sidelining him for most of the 2011 season.  It was a loss the Giants could not overcome; Bochy wants to insure it doesn’t happen again.

Chances are that most of us, while sympathizing with Bochy, would hate to see the crunch taken out of the most exciting moment the game can offer. And yet we know baseball could be made less violent if avoidable rough play – like bulldozing the catcher – was penalized.  Such restraint is unlikely ever to be imposed, because, although the violence could be curtailed, it is welcomed by all of us.  We like the excitement it provides, and accept that it is an integral part of our sport and, indeed, our lives.

The acceptance of hitherto inconceivable violence by Skipper Obama, has led to its becoming a normal, if illegal, practice of his team.  Steve Coll, reporting for the NY Review of Books, runs down the lineup of excesses, linking them in part to the O-team’s intelligence squad, the CIA:

“The past decade has witnessed one of the most egregious misuses of intelligence in American history—the Bush administration’s distortion of information about Saddam Hussein’s terrorist ties and unconventional weapons, in order to justify the invasion of Iraq.  It has also seen a surge of paramilitary activity and covert action that has included the operation of secret prisons, the use of torture, and targeted killing.  The Obama administration ended officially sanctioned torture, but it has…increased the number of covert, unacknowledged targeted killings through the use of armed, unmanned aerial drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.  In all, a president who might have challenged the American intelligence bureaucracy and given it a new direction has instead maintained and even expanded what he inherited.”

We know at least some of the excesses – targeted killings of our own citizens, for example – could be cut from the lineup. Yet the public, led by the corporate media, has taken a pass on all these wholesale violations of our supposedly sacred rule of law.  The reaction of Team USA’s fans has ranged from apathetic to go-get-‘em. “All’s fair when anti-terrorism is the game” sums up the attitude.

Long-Kindled Backfire:  As we witness the deadly reaction of Afghans to Team USA’s latest devastating misplay in their bailiwick – the burning of Korans –  Salon’s Glenn Greenwald reminds us of the bigger picture to explain the “why” behind what’s happening: “The U.S. has violently occupied their country for more than a decade.  It has, as Gen. Stanley McChrystal himself explained, killed what he called an ’amazing number’ of innocent Afghans in checkpoint shootings.  It has repeatedly killed young Afghan children in air strikes.  It continues to imprison their citizens for years at Bagram and other American bases without charges of any kind and with credible reports of torture and other serious abuses.  Soldiers deliberately shot Afghan civilians for fun and urinated on their corpses and displayed them as trophies.”

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What the Book Says:  A rule that could eliminate some of the basepath mayhem is little known and seldom enforced: it states that a fielder cannot a block a base unless he has possession of the ball.  Often, we know, catchers brace for the impact with a runner at home while the ball is still en route.

One Better-Be-Tough Twin:  Minnesota’s $86 million catcher Joe Mauer, who also spent much time on the DL last year, has, unlike Posey, been told to keep putting his body on the line. “If you’re going to be a catcher, you have to be prepared to have a collision,” said GM Terry Ryan.  A gutsy decision sure to be monitored by second-guessers.

Jarring Josh:  Asked whether he thought he owed the Rangers a hometown discount on his next contract, Josh Hamilton caused a flap around Texas with this response:  “I’m not going to sit here and say I owe the Rangers, because I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”  Hamilton later amended the statement to say he owed the Rangers “loyalty” and 100-percent effort.  Commented one columnist: “He tries to be candid, but he sometimes lacks the glib footwork of a preacher or a politician.” 

Albert, Angels at Odds:  It’s all because of Brooklyn Dodger fans that Albert Pujols has told the LA Angels he’d prefer not to have the team promote him as “El Hombre.”  Fans at a Cardinals-Dodgers game in 1946 started calling Stan Musial “The Man” as he sprayed hits around Ebbets Field.  Pujols came to know and idolize Musial, a legend in St.Louis, during his 11 years with the Cardinals. Albert says he’d like not to be called The Man (in Spanish) out of “respect” for the original hombre, “Stan the Man.” The Angels so far have not acquiesced to Pujols’ request. 

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

About Richard Starkey

Dick Starkey handled media for former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and many other office-holders and candidates. He was sports editor of the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Perfect Pitch partner Robert Sullivan was the first to adapt focus groups to politics and has been called by Cuomo and others one of the "best" pollsters in the country.