It now appears likely that both our Houston Astros and our Houston Texans will have their seasons sacrificed on the altar of political correctitude, their morale blown to bits by twin explosions of overdone umbrage. Well, at least we Texas sports fans can draw solace from knowing that, in bowing to the gods of our new religion, we all took one for the cultural team. Today’s lineup:
- ESPN The Magazine, reporting on an October 18 meeting attended by NFL league executives, team owners, and players, quoted Bob McNair, the Texans’ owner, as stating that “we cannot have the inmates running the prison.” The report provides zero context for the comment, but the players, heeding the immortal advice of Rahm Emanuel (“never let a good crisis go to waste”), volunteered to offer context, claiming that McNair was insulting the players, was referring to them as the “prison inmates” in his metaphor. McNair himself responded to the uproar with both an apology and an explanation: one of the NFL’s problems is that the owners, having ceded too much control of the sport to the NFL commissioner, have in effect put the “inmates” (i.e., Commissioner Goodell and his staff) in the position of running the “prison” (i.e., the teams). In McNair’s view, the commissioner’s job is to execute the will of his bosses (the owners), not to overrule them. Nothing newsworthy here; that tug of war has been going on for ¾ of a century. As for whether McNair’s statement of intent was correct and complete, should we care? Short of psychological testing, there is no way to figure out what McNair originally meant, but we do have his apology and explanation, providing assurance that he does not consider players as inmates and has never done so. In a rational world, that would suffice. But McNair’s intended meaning was irrelevant to the players, who were delighted to channel their inner Rahm Emanuel. For today’s victims, no explanation, apology, or penance is enough.
- Speaking of today’s victims, we come to the sad case of the Astros’ Yulieski Gurriel, their 33-year-old rookie who escaped from Cuba last year and had been the ‘Stros’ best hitter in the playoffs. Gurriel did something worse than spitting at the umpire or giving the fans the finger: after hitting a home run and returning to his dugout, he made a pair of gestures to the opposing pitcher that would be regarded as good-natured ribbing in Cuba (and much of the rest of the world), if delivered between two friends or colleagues or fellow-competitors. (As for America, you want to tell me NFL offensive and defensive linepersons do not do stuff like this, and worse?) Yes, baseball has a code that you avoid showing up the opponent, but this was dugout-to-dugout. I am OK with giving Gurriel a lecture, maybe a fine, maybe 2 hours locked in a room with Rachel Maddow, plus an explanation that this stuff might be OK in Cuba but not here. But a 5-game suspension? For a guy who apparently had no idea this was a capital offense in MLB? Plus doing it immediately, which might have placated America’s moral guardians but also seriously affected the Astros’ morale for the rest of the World Series?