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

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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.

Grudge continues to fester between Braves, Marlins

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The Braves and Marlins have some bad blood, especially concerning Ronald Acuña Jr. Around this time last year, José Ureña intentionally threw at Acuña in the first at-bat of a game, leading to a benches-clearing incident. Acuña was hit on the elbow and exited the game but was ultimately fine. Acuña’s crime? Just being good at baseball. At the time, he had homered in five consecutive games, including three games against the Marlins.

In 2019, the first-place Braves and last-place Marlins have mostly minded their own business. The Marlins, however, can certainly keep a grudge it appears. With his first pitch in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday night in Atlanta, Marlins starter Elieser Hernández hit Acuña in the hip.

Home plate umpire Alan Porter issued warnings to both dugouts. Braves manager Brian Snitker wasn’t happy about his side having received a warning for no reason, and was ejected by first base umpire Mark Wegner. Hernández would hit Adeiny Hechavarría with a pitch in the fourth inning — seemingly unintentionally — and was not ejected. Other than that, there were no more incidents and cooler heads prevailed.

Acuña finished 1-for-4 in the Braves’ 5-1 win. Freddie Freeman hit two home runs and knocked in four runs.