Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

And now, tomorrow’s Bartolo Colon commentary today!

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I have a sneaking suspicion that Bartolo Colon’s drug suspension coming a week after Melky Cabrera’s is gonna be like manna from hack commentator heaven. The story line — and it will be treated as one, seamless story line — is gonna break down thusly:

Angle: Here we go again! The Bay Area is once again the center of the PEDs universe!

Comment: It is true, Colon plays on one side of the San Francisco Bay and Melky plays on the other. It is also true that Jose Canseco played on one side of the San Francisco Bay and Barry Bonds played on the other. This is an accident of geography and nothing more.  I’ll allow this as a viable angle if any evidence is revealed connecting the old Bay Area drug cases and these new ones. But that’s extremely unlikely.

There is almost certainly no connection at all between the old BALCO things and these testosterone tests. There is likely even no connection between Colon’s test and Cabrera’s. As such, linking all of these things together, or even just linking Cabrera and Colon together in some sort of grand “the Bay Area and PEDs” kind of thinkpiece without any actual factual basis for doing so is pretty good evidence that someone is mailing in a column. It’s the equivalent of writing a story about a murder in New York and spending several paragraphs on the Son of Sam killings.

Angle: Major League Baseball has a serious drug problem and has to do something now!

Comment: I bet Tom Verducci is kicking himself for writing this story yesterday instead of tomorrow, because it’s always way better to write a “the world is ending” trend piece when there is more than a single data point.  But now that there are two positive drug tests involving prominent players this year — sorry Freddy Galvis, Guillermo Mota and Marlon Byrd, you just don’t rate — we’re twice as far along into epidemic territory as we were yesterday.

That said, I still can’t see how the fact of a positive test and a player being penalized can serve as evidence that Major League Baseball’s drug testing program is flawed. Now, maybe it is flawed. Maybe the tests are done haphazardly and too seldomly. Maybe the whole thing is a farce. But the one thing that is not evidence of that is someone getting caught. No, to make the case that the system is broken, you have to actually explain what about it is broken. To do otherwise is the same as saying that the criminal justice system is broken because that guy who robbed the liquor store was caught and punished.

Angle: The Oakland A’s are sunk/The Oakland A’s are rallying

Comment: With all apologies to Mike Krukow, this line of thinking is post-hoc nonsense. It’s not going to help the A’s to have lost Colon, but in a world where people seem to think that even Stephen Strasburg is a non-essential part of a playoff team’s roster, I have a hard time buying Bartolo Colon’s absence as the tipping point. Especially now that they have Brett Anderson back to take his place.

If the A’s lose the wild card now, people will blame Bartolo Colon being gone. If they win it, they will credit the A’s rallying around the loss and/or betrayal and/or whatever of Colon and say it was the season’s turning point.  In reality, the A’s wild card hopes have a lot more to do with their offense, Brandon McCarthy’s health, the Tigers, the Orioles, the Angels and the Rays.  Colon is not a serious factor for anyone except someone searching for an easy storyline.

There. Now that you’ve read that, you can ignore everything else. Isn’t that a relief?

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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