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Patriotism and sports are inseparable. But have we lost something important as a result?


Howard Bryant of ESPN takes a pretty gutsy tack for a Fourth of July column. He takes on patriotism at the ballpark. He starts by making an observation that, I hope anyway, everyone acknowledges to be valid:

The old conventions of sports leagues and fans coming to the ballpark to escape the problems of the world disappeared when the towers fell. Sports, which were once by demand of the paying customers and the league themselves a neutral oasis from a dangerous world, have since become the epicenter of community and national exhalation. The ballpark, in the time of two murky wars and a constant threat of international and domestic terrorism, has been for the last dozen years a place for patriotism. The industry that once avoided the complex world now embraces it, serving as the chief staging ground for expressions of patriotism, and has codified it into game-day identity.

A dynamic that was supposed to be temporary has become permanent.

But then Bryant questions why we engage in these ubiquitous acts of patriotism and what it all means. And whether doing so in such an obligatory manner has caused us to lose sight of the fact that (a) when we make our patriotism mindless, we lose an essential part of it, which is thoughtfulness; and (b) when we make our acts of patriotism obligatory we take away another essential thing: the freedom of dissent.

And, oh, by the way, sports had long been apolitical and now it’s clearly a place where a certain type of nationalist fervor, however benign in intent, is acceptable. Why, then, is political expression of other sorts so loudly shouted down? Why don’t we want to hear what athletes say about politics and freedom too?

Like I said: gutsy column. But the fact that we recognize such expressions as Bryant’s as “gutsy” sort of makes his point for him.

Royals leave Jonny Gomes off playoff roster

Atlanta Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes, who was pitching in relief, tips his cap as New York Yankees' Chris Young rounds the bases after a solo home run in the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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It’s been a tough season for the mythology of Jonny Gomes‘ veteran clubhouse savior reputation.

First he signed with the rebuilding Braves and performed poorly while Atlanta fell apart after a surprisingly decent start. Then he was traded to the Royals, for whom he played just 12 games and hit .167. And now Kansas City has left Gomes off the ALDS roster.

It makes sense, though. Gomes’ only real use to the Royals would be as a pinch-hitter versus left-handed pitching, but manager Ned Yost rarely pinch-hits and will no doubt be more willing to use 25th man Terrance Gore as a pinch-runner in the late innings.

Beyond that, not many surprises on the Royals’ roster for their series against the Astros. They went with 11 pitchers, which means both Chris Young and Kris Medlen are on the roster. Jeremy Guthrie is not.

Brian Cashman on Joe Girardi: “He managed a perfect playoff game”

Joe Girardi

Not that there was any real question, but because saying such things are apparently necessary whenever the Yankees fail to make a deep playoff run general manager Brian Cashman made it clear that manager Joe Girardi will return in 2016.

Here’s what Cashman told George King of the New York Post:

It’s a fact, nobody should be looking for anybody different. He is signed for two more years and managed the team to the playoffs. It’s not his fault we didn’t hit. He managed a perfect playoff game.

Given how low preseason expectations were for the Yankees simply reaching the playoffs was an accomplishment and as Cashman notes Girardi has two years and $8 million remaining on his contract.

However, according to King changes to Girardi’s coaching staff “are highly likely” one year after hitting coach Kevin Long and first base coach Mick Kelleler were not retained. Long ended up taking a job as the NL East-winning Mets’ hitting coach.

Girardi has a 735-561 (.567) record in eight seasons as Yankees manager and his .558 career winning percentage is the second-best among all active managers behind only Mike Matheny of the Cardinals.