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The Year of the Laundry
By: Matt The Producer Posted in: Uncategorized on October 23, 2018
By: Mitchell Bannon
Comedian Jerry Seinfield jokes about the oddity behind what sports fandom truly is: rooting for the laundry. Seinfield argued that, while players come and go, and teams change locations, fandom persists, and therefore we are only, truly, rooting for the clothes they wear. But what Seinfield fails to acknowledge is something the laundry has over the players, clothing can’t disappoint us.
As good of a year as 2018 was for the laundry, with amazing storylines across all sports and teams, it was an awful year for the people wearing the clothes. There are incredible people in sports — philanthropists, humanitarians and just genuinely great human beings, but for every Roberto Clemente it seems as if there is a racist, abuser, or all round bigot. I know, I know — Never meet your heroes. When I was little I was a big Ray Rice fan. Safe to say I have no interest in meeting my current sports icons. But who or what can we cheer for?
The Toronto Blue Jays had a pretty terrible season. Nearly all their best players either sucked or were injured, or both. But one individual, Roberto Osuna, was suspended, not for an in game brawl or PEDs, but for assaulting his fiancé. And while Osuna will never pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays again, his ‘punishment’ was to be traded to the Houston Astros, a power house for years to come. If Roberto Osuna gets the last three outs of a World Series game there will be thousands of fans who cheer on their team’s success either unaware or uncaring about the despicable human being winning their favourite laundry another championship.
Osuna is not alone, and is certainly not an exception.
Blue Jays fans had another one of their former laundry wearers, Kelly Gruber, expose his general scumminess. Gruber repeatedly brushed off and belittled a female reporter on the eve of his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction earlier this year, leading to the cancelling of events surrounding his celebration.
Milwaukee Brewer’s pitcher Josh Hader had quite the All-Star weekend when countless of his old tweets were dug up, uncovering slurs targeted at a whole range of minorities. When Hader returned to his home field in Milwaukee he got a standing ovation either in ‘support’ of their home town favourite, or perhaps worse, in solidarity with his actions. Pitching 100 miles per hour or hitting home runs may make you a good baseball player, but unfortunately they do not make you a good person.
This is certainly not a baseball problem either, as Nashville Predator Auston Watson will be missing a large chunk of the 2018 due to the domestic assault of his girlfriend. It is easy to hate a Tom Wilson, who will be missing 20 games for repeated on ice incidents including a hit to the head in the 2018 pre-season, but Watson’s 18 game absence is seemingly undiscussed and will certainly garner much less public hate upon return. The players we idolize are talented and idolized, to the point where we fall for thinking their entire person must be as impressive as their talent.
Former and current players across all sports are accused, convicted and suspended every year, and coaches, the mentors and trainers of these players, are no different. Beloved football coach Urban Meyer of Ohio State was suspended for a mere three games after failing to pass along information about one of his assistant coaches repeated abuse of his wife. Meyer avoided firing because (school-commissioned) investigators deemed this mishandling did not ‘seem intentional.’ This avoidance of firing, or menial suspension, is a common thread across almost all these cases in sport.
Suspend, forgive, and forget.
They are everywhere. These were only the people who were caught. While ignorance may very well be bliss, there is no level of ignorance that can hide from this. Every sport, and maybe every team, has a racist, a homophobe, a bigot, or an abuser. The people we point to as heroes, role models, they either are, or play along side, the exact opposites. This isn’t news. ‘Me Too’ hasn’t injected these awful people into our sports, only exposed them. These people have always been there, wearing your team’s colours, and you have probably cheered for them.
We cannot hide from this. Sports fandom inherently challenges their fans with every loss or bump in the road to success. But this is different. It forces fans to define their fandom. Player, city, logo, laundry? Where does your allegiance lie. Where do you draw your line? If a member of your favourite team abuses his spouse, tosses around slurs on social media, or puts a MAGA hat in his locker room stall, do you demand their release or trade? Change your lifelong support? Or stick your head in the sand?
I guess that is up to the individual. But any fan who argues their team is full of righteous, upstanding citizens is ignorant or woefully uninformed. Maybe we abstain from sports until the robots are ready to suit up. Or maybe, until then, we just cheer for the laundry (except for the Redskins because that laundry still sucks).