It’s a divided world out there, in more ways than one. Especially these days. Highly opinionated sports fans have always been part of the fabric of America. But are things changing? Are men forgetting how to debate and talk to each other?
For decades men would gather at a local watering hole after work, or perhaps at some type of general store in the mornings to discuss baseball and to exchange opinions while engaging in debate. This was done in person, to another man’s face. They’d recap the previous night’s base ball contest and challenge one another’s opinions. “Is Mickey Mantle really better than Joltin’ Joe?” “Hell no he’s not! Joe was the best there ever was!”
At bars in Boston, they’d argue about Slaughter’s Mad Dash for years to come. “If DiMaggio never came out of the damn game, Slaughter wouldn’t have scored. Culberson’s got a wet noodle for an arm,” one man says to another man (in person) at which point another man says (to the other man’s face) “That’s bullshit. Slaughter was going to score no matter what. Culberson should have started the god damn game anyway if you ask me.” During said conversation no one’s feelings were ever hurt. In fact, more times than not, they’d end up becoming friends. Even close friends.
In the year of our Lord 2018, you don’t have to worry about the consequences of a bad idea. You don’t have to worry about winning an argument or defending an opinion. You have Twitter now. For no charge at all, you can create a Twitter account, using whatever name you’d like along with whatever photo you’d like. Your grandfather would exchange ideas in person, in public, while you get to exchange your ideas from the shield of anonymity via your mother’s basement.
It seems that the actual political divide we are experiencing right now in this country sometimes bleeds into baseball. Am I the only one noticing this? We see “the mob” mentality all over baseball Twitter and if you don’t have an erection over advanced stats, you must hate all advance stats and you’re probably a Trump supporter. And, under no circumstances, can you have these debates in person.
On one side of the aisle you have guys like Joe Simpson, Chip Caray, Jeff Francoeur, John Smoltz and Dale Murphy. On the other side of the aisle you have an angry mob telling guys like Murph how stupid they are for not adhering to the fact that wRC+ is a much more accurate representation of a player’s offensive story than batting average.
On one side of the aisle you have Jim Kaat. A guy who pitched in the big leagues for 25 years, who faced both Ted Williams and Julio Franco, and while he wasn’t as effective the third time thru the order and owns the fact that the last six outs are the hardest, he offers to speak with you. And on the other side of the aisle, you have Twitter accounts operated by grown men who aren’t ready to speak to other men in person.
American politics has placed everyone in one of two buckets. It’s always sort of been this way, I think. We’ve always been a little divided, but not like this. Now, more so than at any other point in American history, we seem to be completely confined to only TWO boxes. How depressing is that? We opinionated and complex humans are confined to just one of two boxes.
In 2018, it’s impossible to like part of one thing and part of another thing. I thought Hillary Clinton would have actually done a decent job as President. But I don’t really care for Hillary Clinton. And if I say these things publicly, I’d be painted with a broad brush. Based on everything I’ve read and seen, I still haven’t found any evidence to indict Donald Trump as a racist. But, can you imagine if I said that publicly?
This very same mindset has bled into baseball. If you like Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris, you are not also allowed to like a guy who just hits for power and strikes out a lot. If you question WAR, you must hate all advanced stats. If you refer to someone’s batting average, you’re a traditionalist and you hate wOBA.
Perhaps the extreme political divide has driven the engine towards not debating face-to-face. Or perhaps, it’s the vehicle – Twitter. Either way, it’s sad. As long as men grow increasingly dependent on keeping their arguments confined to a keyboard, they’ll continue to get weaker, and weaker men will continue to give us a weaker society.
Do yourself a favor and go sit at a bar and strike up a conversation with someone. You’ll be surprised at your ability to carry on with someone (in person) if you allow yourself to get away from Twitter. Then, get that person’s number. Keep in touch. Maybe meet at said bar each week. Or maybe even at Waffle House. Invite others. Maybe like four or five (be selective). And eventually you’ll have a group. A weekly baseball group. The bartenders or servers will get to know you and eventually slip you a free drink here or there. And most importantly, you’ll feel better about yourself.