Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 6, Phillies 2: Pretty good day for me yesterday. I took Mookie and Carlo to an amusement park and the Braves swept the Phillies. All I needed as a nice steak or something to cap the day and it would have been perfection.  Only the Astros, Rockies and Cubs have a bigger division deficit than the Phillies do in all of baseball.

Dodgers 4, Giants 1: Clayton Kershaw tossed a five-hit shutout to help the Dodgers sweep the Giants and now the NL West essentially tied up.  The Dodgers outscored the Giants 19-3 in the series. I gotta tell ya, I was prepared to watch the Dodgers slowly slip away throughout the second half, but they ain’t doin’ it. Looks like we’ll have a nice little race out there.

Reds 7, Rockies 2: Ten in a row for the Reds. They gotta be hoping Joey Votto doesn’t come back at this point, right?  OK, maybe not. But you know some nudnik is gonna suggest that there’s a chemistry problem when he does come back and the Reds actually stop winning every single baseball game.

Mariners 7, Royals 6: Wait, another sweep? This is starting to look like last weekend. King Felix pitched well but got a no-decision because of his pen. Dude just doesn’t know how to win.

Twins 5, Indians 1: How about one more sweep?  Brian Duensing got the spot start to cover for the departed Francisco Liriano. He had no idea. Found out the news from his Twitter followers and then saw it on the team website. Worked out nice for him all the same (6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER)

Cubs 4, Cardinals 2: Anthony Rizzo with the walkoff homer in the tenth, finishing a 3 for 4 day. Walked once too. The dude is hope.

Mets 5, Diamondbacks 1: R.A. Dickey won his 14th game. The Mets split the series, somewhat arresting their precipitous post-break slide.

Rays 2, Angels 0: Zack Greinke made his Angels debut. And, aside from looking weird in that uniform, did OK, allowing two runs in seven innings while punching out eight. But he got no help from the offense while Jeremy Hellickson and three of his mates combined to shut out Anaheim.

Nationals 11, Brewers 10:  Michael Morse hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning, then hit a two-run double in the 11th which provided the winning margin. Not bad. Oh, and this was ridiculous.

Orioles 6, Athletics 1Wei-Yin Chen struck out 12 and Matt Wieters hit a three-run homer to help the O’s avoid the sweep.

Astros 9, Pirates 5: Another avoided sweep, as the Astros finally snap their losing streak. Marwin Gonzalez had three hits and drove in three. He had been 0 for his previous 16. Fun Fact: Gonzalez has, at every level of baseball he’s played since he was a teenager, driven in three runs on July 29th. Actually that’s a lie, bus since only like three of you guys pull for the Astros and know who Marwin Gonzalez is I coulda just left that hangin’ out there and none of you would have been able to dispute it.

Tigers 4, Blue Jays 1: Jhonny Peralta homered twice and drove in all four of Detroit’s runs to help the Tigers, you guessed it, avoid a three game sweep.

Marlins 5, Padres 4: Justin Ruggiano hit the game winner in the tenth of what could be Josh Johnson’s last start as a Marlin. If so, somewhat dubious — six walks — but he was effective enough to keep his team in the game.

Red Sox 3, Yankees 2: It’s  Pedro Ciriaco’s world. He’s just letting us live in it for a little while.

Rangers 2, White Sox 0: Eight shutout innings from Scott Feldman. Now four games against the Angels.

The Blue Jays will . . . not be blue some days next year

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The Toronto Blue Jays, like a lot of teams, will wear an alternate jersey next year. It’ll be for Sunday home games. They call it their “Canadiana,” uniforms. Which, hey, let’s hear it for national pride.

(question to Canada: my grandmother and my three of my four maternal great-grandparents were Canadian. Does that give me any rights to emigrate? You know, just in case? No reason for asking that today. Just curious!).

Anyway, these are the uniforms:

More like RED Jays, am I right?

OK, I am not going to leave this country. I’m going to stay here and fight for what’s right: a Major League Baseball-wide ban on all red alternate jerseys for anyone except the Cincinnati Reds, who make theirs work somehow. All of the rest of them look terrible.

Oh, Canada indeed.

Sports and politics share some of their worst excesses

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  Montana alternative delegate Susan Reneau shouts "guilty" as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes a column today — likely part of the Post’s overall Inauguration coverage — about how the world of sports and sports fandom is a refreshing change from the world of politics. It’s a place where “facts are still facts,” he says. Where  “debates, though sometimes loud, are surrounded by oceans of substantiated facts and often informed by respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points.” Contrasted with politics, of course, where objective fact has turned into opinion and vice-versa.

I get what he’s trying to say and I think he’s well-intentioned. But I also think he badly misreads both sports discourse and political discourse, each of which have borrowed the worst excesses from the other. And by this I do not mean the extent to which the substance of sports and politics overlap, which we have often argued about in this space. This is not a “stick to sports” point. I’m talking about the way in which sports fans interact with sports and political people interact with politics, even in a relative vacuum.

Politics has coopted sports discourse in the most toxic and wrongheaded of ways. The idea that “scoreboard!” is all that matters. The belief that winning is the only objective as opposed to a means to an end. Notions of rooting and tribalism, and that “our team” and “the opposing team” is the proper way to view the parties to the contest. All of those things — each of which make sense to varying degrees in a sports context — have been imported into politics and have served to degrade them.

Likewise, contrary to what Boswell says, sports fans and commentators have eagerly begun to traffic in political-style reality creation, distortion and spin. He takes an oblique swipe at the “hot takers” like Skip Bayless and talk radio shouters, but he’s deluded if he thinks that they do not have more influence over sports fans than do than “the respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points” which he describes. Bayless and his crowd are a direct aping of “Crossfire”-style political shows.

Likewise, the concept of fan loyalty is increasingly discussed and routinely encouraged by sports leagues and teams in terms that were once reserved for party politics. The notion that those who have succeeded have done so because they are worthy and all of those who are worthy have succeeded is likewise fully believed by both sports fans and political actors. The idea that validation of one sort — electoral or competitive — justifies overlooking the political or athletic actor’s real life transgressions likewise crosses political and athletic lines. How much do sports fans and citizens overlook crimes and misdemeanors if there is a sufficient redemption or comeback narrative to cloak them?

Yet Boswell believes there to be a fundamental gap between how sports and politics are practiced and consumed. To explain it, he says this:

One partial explanation for the gap between the way we talk about sports and the way we talk about some other subjects may be the distorting force field of ideology. When we have a deep attachment to unprovable beliefs, ideas and emotions get intertwined. The psychological cost of disentangling them can be profound.

Tell me that you have not witnessed that dynamic among people whose identities have become far too wound up in the sports teams for which they root. There is ideology among sports fans just as much as there is among political partisans, even if the stakes aren’t as high.

He also says this:

For example, Clemson and Alabama have split the past two college football titles. Yet both coaches, in both years, deferred respectfully to the results, didn’t seek scapegoats, didn’t claim the results were invalid and, by their example, encouraged their fans to take pride in the battle — won or lost — and analyze it with enthusiasm but without distortion.

As if sports fans haven’t spent years re-litigating the Tuck Rule, Don Denkinger or Maradona’s Hand of God. As if notions of good sportsmanship and proper perspective are satisfied by merely accepting results. As if cheating scandals, real, imagined or inflated beyond all perspective, have not caused people to question the very legitimacy of the players in question.

As I said at the outset, I get what Boswell is trying to get at. And I find it admirable that he’s looking to sports to find some grace in an increasingly graceless world. Moreover, none of this is to say that sports don’t provide some refuge from raging political storms. They do.

But the world of sports is every bit as susceptible to the reality-denying, magical thinking storms which have increasingly come to characterize politics. And those raging political storms are very much fueled by a type and mode of passion that was first cultivated in sports and repurposed for a larger stage.

I mean, are these things really all that different?

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