Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Doritos Jackie Robinson Day presented by Cialis

April 15 should be a national holiday. And I don't mean, like, "Tax Day" or something.

I don't believe it's an exaggeration at all to say that April 15, 1947 was one of the greatest and most important days in American history. People love to talk about events within a sport "transcending" the sport itself, and I think that's usually silly. But if that's ever happened at all, it happened on April 15, 1947. 62 years ago today, our national pastime actually became our National Pastime, and we as a society got a little better. Yeah, it was just one guy (really, a few; we really shouldn't forget that Larry Doby came along 81 days later, and it's not like it was all wine and four-locker clubhouse suites with leather recliners and personal TVs for him either), but it was one guy who was allowed to get by on his achievements rather than what he looked like, which was something. Without Robinson (and Doby) going through the hell he (they) went through, who knows where we end up, or when we finally get there? April 15 is a hugely important, uplifting day, and it needs to be celebrated.

Want to know a smarmy used car salesman who both understands that and is trying to destroy it for his own inscrutable ends? This guy.

Major League Baseball has been celebrating Jackie Robinson Day for about five years now. In 2007, the sixtieth anniversary, they had a huge, very touching celebration at Dodger Stadium. Sparked by a brilliant idea of Ken Griffey Jr.'s, a number of players received special permission to wear the otherwise-retired #42 in Jackie's honor. It was sweet.

Now? Everybody's got to wear it. Really. Every single player and coach will be wearing #42 tonight.

Did you have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance as a kid? If so, do you remember thinking, "gosh, this sure is making me love my country and respect the sanctity of our flag!" while doing it? Or perhaps more to the point, would you suppose the teacher at the head of the class was thinking that you were thinking that? Because if Allan H. "Bud" Selig were your teacher, by golly, that's exactly what he'd be thinking.
"I think it's great," the Commissioner said. "Just their understanding of history and what that man did for so many people is so important. Believe me, it makes me very happy."
Hey, Bud? If you make somebody do something, and they do it, that doesn't show their understanding of the history of anything, except maybe the history of what happens to people who refuse to follow orders. It feels dirty and cheap now--which is exactly what happens sooner or later to everything Bud touches. It's about using the idealized image of Jackie as a publicity vehicle for baseball, and that's it. And Jackie makes a great vehicle for illustrating what's right and good about baseball...but it should be much, much more than that.

So, best to just forget that (and try not to notice the uniform'll just get confused). Let's all just take a minute and remember Jackie (and Larry) in our own little way today. It's a great, great day.


  1. Bill,

    Good stuff with the blog. Keep it up.

    I totally agree that the forced nature of today's celebration cheapens it. When the #42 thing first happened, I thought it was pretty dang cool and was glad that MLB was letting it happen. But now that it's essentially a mandate for all 750 players to wear it, it seems silly and looks much less like an honor and more like a publicity gesture. Does Cody Ransom really need to be wearing #42? Livan Hernandez? I think not.

    I do think there is a little something being missed here, though. A "forest for the trees" type of thing. Yes it's dumb and makes no sense for benchwarmers and sub-replacement level guys to be taking the field with #42 on their back and it looks even worse when you go down the full list of players. But I suspect that Commissioner Bud and his pals weren't actually thinking of it on the Cody Ransom and Mike Rivera levels - the micro-level - no matter how cynical some people can be.

    I bet he was instead thinking of the macro-level... that photo from centerfield that shows all 9 players in their home whites and the baserunner at second waiting for the pitch, the #42 on their back. That's a pretty compelling image, and it does have some legitimate honor in it. On that micro-level, it definitely seems silly... but I can see something special about that macro-level, at least a little bit.

    Like I said, I'm with you... the forced nature of the celebration cheapens it and it shouldn't be the case. But I can see, at least a little bit, what Selig is trying to do here, and there's *some* merit in it. It's not right, but my non-cynical-to-a-fault eye sees something good about it.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement and the feedback, Lar.

    I'm willing to believe, I guess, that he's really doing this with the best of intentions. And I guess I can see that macro-level appeal of it (though to me, it just looks kind of odd, like the very old Madden video games where they couldn't get individual numbers on and it looked like every player was #88 or something).
    But even assuming all that away, what gets me is that he's killed the thing that was really good about it--the ability of, say, a Griffey or Torii or Rollins to stand up and make that gracious little gesture on their own. I want to wear #42, because it's deeply and personally meaningful to me. That's gone now, and it'll be a while before it can come back in a way that will seem meaningful again.
    Maybe that's an overreaction, since something like 170 players ended up doing it in '07, so it wasn't all that much different than this. But I like the idea of the statement made by the personal choice, anyway, a lot better than I like this.

  3. Bud Selig is a giant buzzkill.

    Well done so far!

  4. Actually, the scary part (for me) was when I saw your post title I stopped and thought "waitaminute, they're actually calling it that now?" for a few seconds before I realized you were being funny. And I don't think I'm particularly gullible :)

    Kudos on the blog, BTW. Looks interesting.

  5. Thanks, Josh and Joshua! :)