Barring natural disasters or unforeseen health crises, chances are I’ll watch around 150 Red Sox games during the 2021 season, along with parts of other contests as the pennant races advance. And I would have done so, it’s important to emphasize, whether deposed strongman Donald J. Trump likes it or not.
Boycott baseball? I literally can’t remember not being a baseball fan. Home movies exist of me imitating the home run trot of Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Howie Schultz, whom I’ve otherwise forgotten. One of my epic childhood memories is holding my father’s hand and walking up a darkened stadium ramp at New York’s Polo Grounds into the astonishing green of the playing field and the actual, physical presence of Willie Mays — a mythic figure in my boyish imagination.
As for the All-Star Game, I normally take a pass for the same reason I skip spring training games. They’re a relic of the radio era, when American League fans got to see National League standouts only at All-Star time. Apart from the honor, most players would rather have the day off. They’re strictly exhibitions, not real contests.
Selfishly, I’d have preferred that the MLB avoid political controversy altogether. To me, the game’s a refuge, a few blessed hours when the daily ruck and moil of politics simply doesn’t exist. But that could be my white privilege talking, to employ a phrase that also makes my feet itch.
Problem is, certain realities can’t be avoided.
You can tell by the blundering, characteristically ungrammatical way former Boss Trump jumped into the controversy over Major League Baseball’s pulling the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest Georgia’s new voting law, hyperbolically characterized by President Joe Biden as “Jim Crow on steroids.”
Continuing to whine about the 2021 presidential election that he lost by 7 million votes, Trump complained in a statement: “For years the Radical Left Democrats have played dirty by boycotting products when anything from that company is done or stated in any way that offends them. Now they are going big time with WOKE CANCEL CULTURE and our sacred elections.”
He produced a list of major corporations, including the MLB, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup and Merck, and demanded his supporters boycott their products.
“We can play the game better than them,” Trump boasted. “The Radical Left will destroy our Country if we let them. We will not become a Socialist Nation.” Then came the punchline: “Happy Easter!”
(Last Easter, it will be recalled, Trump was doing PR for COVID-19, urging parishioners to crowd into churches in defiance of social distancing.)
As usual, this is upside-down. It’s mainly the political right in the United States that has long practiced shunning those with whom they disagree. Think Dixie Chicks. Think Colin Kaepernick.
Even French fries became “Freedom Fries” after France’s U.N. ambassador warned President George W. Bush against the folly of invading Iraq. (Months later, a friend sent me a photo documenting a cynical joke I’d made: a vending machine in an Arkansas truck stop offering 50-cent “Freedom Ticklers.”)
So don’t “cancel culture” me; Republicans invented it.
As for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s phony victimization, there was nothing subtle about the staged iconography of his signing ceremony. Seven middle-aged white men posing in front of an idealized painting of a pre-Civil War plantation. The only thing missing was a rebel flag.
Arresting a Black woman legislator for having the temerity to knock on the office door was an added touch.
Kemp, see, had incurred Trumpist wrath by defending the integrity of Georgia’s presidential vote and its subsequent Senate runoff — all narrowly won by Democrats. The purpose of the new law is to cover his political butt by making it marginally harder to vote, thereby suppressing Black turnout.
What other reason could there be for reducing the number of electoral drop boxes in Metro Atlanta from 94 to 23 and moving them inside government buildings shuttered after normal working hours?
For making it much harder to vote absentee?
For giving a legislative committee power to move precincts around and make it difficult for voters who show up at the wrong place to file provisional ballots?
For making it illegal to give water to voters waiting in long lines? As if Black voters don’t cherish their hard-won right to vote and would give up and go home.
Yes, the amazing Stacey Abrams can probably overcome such cynical ploys all over again. So just in case, the new law takes election supervision away from honorable Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and gives it to a GOP-dominated legislative committee that is also empowered — get this — to remove county election officials for replacements of their own choosing.
Jim Crow? Not really. This is basically election reform, Kremlin-style.
Meanwhile, play ball! Because if Trump is fighting MLB and Coca-Cola, much less Citigroup and CBS, then Trump is losing.
All over again.