The 2016 Major League Baseball season kicked off this week, and while baseball is among the most boring sports out there, it is undoubtedly a big part of summer sports culture. In fact, your very own The Pop Culture Reference Founders were bound together by their experiences on Vancouver’s hippest slo-pitch softball team (think Converse shoes and skinny jeans while playing). Since baseball is a fun part of the summer sport culture that we consume and partake in, we wanted to share some thoughts as the big league season gets underway. In case you missed it, you can check out my article on Why Baseball Players are So Fat Now as a starting point.
We’re from Canada, and that means we’re invested in the suddenly decent Toronto Blue Jays. There was an incident this week where these Blue Jays lost a game due to a violation of a new rule that was implemented because players were getting severely injured. There is a conservative streak that runs through sports commentary that is unsavoury at the best of times, and it is no surprise that a baseball commentator would exemplify it, as baseball is particularly prone to what I call “white old dude nonsense.” Short version: the commentator in question, Gregg Zaun, was incensed that the Blue Jays had this new rule correctly applied to their game. He suggested that this new rule was turning baseball into a “sissy” game, and the Blue Jays manager followed suit by asking if the players should “wear dresses” for their next game. This series of events offended me to my very core, and I wasn’t alone. This is such sexist nonsense. Because, like, women aren’t tough. Get it? The Blue Jays manager defended his statement saying, “It doesn’t offend my mother, my daughter, my wife, who have a great understanding of life. I do think the world needs to lighten up a little bit.” It’s just sad. The Blue Jays organization and Sportsnet (who broadcasted the game and who employ Gregg Zaun), need to do better, end of story.
- Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Gregg Zaun put his foot in his mouth. This is a story of how he was abused as a young baseball player, and how he believes the lack of this physical abuse in today’s game is changing it for the worse. Let’s get him some help.
- On the brighter side, here’s a lovely article about why we should be optimistic for baseball’s future. Among other positives, the story details how ESPN has replaced a known bigot/insane person with an Olympian who happens to be a woman as a full-time commentator. Yay!
- If you are sensitive to sons being absolutely lovely to their mothers, do not read this story about a baseball player who wears distinctive socks so that his visually-impaired mother can always find him on the pitch. Too much.
- Given the huge number of baseball players that come to the MLB from the Dominican Republic and other Spanish-speaking countries, it’s shocking that this is the first year teams are required to have a Spanish translator on staff for their players. Here’s a sad story that illustrates why having a translator is so important.
- This week, The New York Times featured an article from Jay Caspian Kang called “The Unbearable Whiteness of Baseball”. It’s an insightful look at the way the sports media and establishment have dealt with (or not dealt with) the changing face of the biggest stars of the league.
- For a deeper dive into baseball culture, check out this interesting conversation between Joe Posnanski and Parks and Recreation creator Michael Schur. They discuss why Jose Bautista’s epic bat flip in last year’s playoffs was such a unique moment in baseball history.
- And finally, if you love the movie A League of Their Own as much as Lauren does, you might enjoy these 25 Fun Facts about A League of Their Own.