Monday, September 08, 2014

Human Beans

Over at Just A Bit Outside, Ken Rosenthal wrote a great piece about how baseball brought gay former player Billy Bean (no relation) back into the fold as an outreach ambassador to the GLBT community. The piece talks about how Bean ultimately felt driven out of the game he loved by the need to hide his orientation, how baseball eventually reached out to him and offered a mea culpa, and how they set up this outreach role proactively. The piece goes further and talks about how old-school tough-as-nails guys like Joe Torre and Yogi Berra - the sorts of guys you'd think would view a player's coming out as a "distraction", if you weren't thinking too hard - were part of the process and on board with things from the get-go, and about how numerous gay and lesbian baseball employees wrote to Bean to talk about the positive impact his role was having on their lives.

It's a well-written feel-good piece, and as a fan of the sport I'm glad to see MLB continuing to make strides forward. So often you hear the empty argument "all that matters is if they can play", which quickly turns to "they'd be a distraction in the locker room" and a million other excuses, even on the hypothetical. Integrating with Jackie Robinson was a noble and necessary gesture; it was also the better part of a century ago. Society has changed, and resting on laurels from before anyone knew who Elvis was only goes so far.

So. It's a good thing. It's a positive thing. It will hopefully help pave the way for players who happen to be gay to feel accepted in the sport that they love and excel at, and to sandbag the "distraction" narrative that hovered around Michael Sam as his draft stock magically deflated. In other words, it will make it easier, in the long run, for the best players to play baseball, regardless of their sexual orientation. It will make it easier for the best front office and clubhouse and grounds crew and marketing and training staff personnel to work in baseball, regardless of their sexual orientation, meaning teams function better and again, we get better baseball. What's the downside here?

Well, for that you need to go to the comments, where the trolls roam free. And it's disappointing to see so many of the same, sad, disproved, fearful, cowardly arguments made again and again. About how everything's just fine and anyone who gets driven out by a systematic culture of exclusion must be too weak and how dare you write about politics when you should be writing about baseball and gosh darn it this liberal agenda and-

No. Enough.

Several players demanded, when the Dodgers brought up Jackie Robinson, that they be traded because they weren't going to play with him. Dixie Walker was the man behind the petition; later, he called it the stupidest thing he'd ever done, and said that he was sorry for it. 

To all those rushing to line up to be the next Dixie Walker, whether on the field or in the comments section, think on that. 

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