John Oliver: ‘Being a Yankee fan was the wrong thing to do morally’

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Like a lot of Americans who are looking for a sport to follow when it’s not baseball season, I have dipped my toe in soccer on occasion over the years. I’ve never really gotten into it because I simply seem to be unable to find room in my life, brain and heart for a second sport at this point in my life, but I’ve come closer to picking up the English Premier League as a habit than anything else in the past few years.

Of course, the issue every American faces when they want to get into soccer from another country is what team to root for. And there are a number of theories and a lot of advice big time soccer fans will give newbies when it comes to picking an allegience.

Some will try to make analogies to baseball teams, such as, “If you like the Dodgers you should like Arsenal because both are usually pretty good but both tend to disappoint you in the end.” Some suggest that, if you have any ancestry in England you can pick a club near where your roots are. I’ve got British blood on both sides of my family, but the most recent relative from there is a great grandmother who was born in West Bromwich in the West Midlands. The problem there is that the West Brom club (a) got relegated last year and failed to make it back to the Premier League this year; and (b) I’m told they are rather boring and tedious to watch in any event. So, sorry great grandma Alice, I won’t be picking them up either.

Beyond those sorts of considerations, the thing you hear most often is that you can’t root for certain clubs because it’s simply wrong to do it. I’ve heard this about Manchester United, Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, and Liverpool on various occasions, with all of them being compared either to the Yankees or the Red Sox. Whether that’s because of their success, their financial dominance or, in the case of Liverpool, having the same dang ownership group as Boston, I’ve been told that it’s simply morally wrong to pick up one of those teams. They don’t need new fans, I’m told, or my support and backing of them would make me a frontrunner or something. I don’t have any idea how valid those notions are — I’m sure some EPL fans will explain it all in the comments — but you hear them a lot.

And now we learn that it goes both ways.

Talk show host and actor John Oliver was at the Mets game yesterday wearing a Mets cap and the crew came down to interview him. Oliver is English, has only been in this country for 13 years and was not any sort of a baseball fan before coming here. He has since married an American and lives here permanently, so like any smart person he has become a baseball fan. Good job, John!

But why a Mets fan?

As the kids say today: where is the lie?

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.