I haven’t watched a World Series, in the complete sense, in years. I was born in LA and was a Dodgers fan growing up. Over the years I lost interest in baseball as the lack of parity made the game less interesting. Admittedly, after the Cubs won the World Series last year, my interest was once again peaked. Although I didn’t watch a single game in the regular season, I loosely started paying attention when the Dodgers surged in June and July. For the first time in thirty years, I rushed home from work to watch each game of the World Series.
A big win for the Astros in game three was momentarily overshadowed when, after hitting a home run, Yuli Gurriel of the Astros pulled back the ends of his eyes in an overtly racist gesture – one I hadn’t seen decades – to seemingly to mock the Dodgers Japanese pitcher, Yu Darvish. The whole thing was caught on national TV and stole headlines the following day as pressure to punish the Astros star rose to a fever pitch. In an era when racists are feeling especially embolden and white nationalists are marching the streets with impunity, any form of racism should be dealt with – harshly and swiftly. The commissioner of MLB responded by suspending Gurriel for five games without pay, but deferring the penalty to the 2018 season, allowing the Astros first basemen to play in the World Series. I thought the penalty was reasonable, but I couldn’t help but ask myself whether the fact that Gurriel was Hispanic (from Cuba) influenced the commissioner’s decision. More specifically, would the penalty have been worse if Gurriel was white? It’s a fair question and if nothing else should serve as a reminder that racism is not an affliction that affects only white people. Expect more on this topic in future blogs.
In an exceptionally classy move, Yu Darvish released the following statement:
No one is perfect. That includes both you and I. What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let’s stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.
In the deciding game seven, the two athletes squared off against each other for the first time since the episode. On his first at bat, with Darvish on the mound, and boos raining down on him, Gurriel removed his cap and slightly bowed his head to Darvish, publicly apologizing with a traditional sign of respect to the Dodger ace. I must admit, the gesture gave me goose bumps, and the two athletes thankfully avoided being a major distraction in what turned out to be one of the most competitive and exciting World Series in recent history. Congrats to the Houston Astros who won the franchise’s first championship for a city that is still recovering from the devastation of hurricane Harvey.
From Jackie Robinson to Colin Kaepernick, professional sports continue to serve as a microcosm of society and a platform for peaceful debate about many of our interpersonal challenges, especially those related to race. I love it.
The NFL markets its brand as well as any enterprise in the world. I heard a comedian once say that the NFL is so popular, it has its own day. NFL football is huge. Each NFL franchise brings in approximately $400M a year in revenue; almost double the annual revenue of NBA teams and 2 ½ times as much as MLB clubs.