Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No Place for Boo Birds

This fall I was in Milwaukee for a business trip and spotted Daniel Bard walking through the hotel lobby. When I said his name, he looked up, obviously surprised that he would be recognized – and likely horrified that a middle-aged woman was so eager to meet him. For those that don’t remember him, Daniel Bard was a top Red Sox pitching prospect – and lights-out pitcher – until he and the rest of the team imploded in September of 2011.  In 2012 they tried to make him into a starter and he spent much of 2013 in Portland, presumably trying to get his groove back. I told him I was a Red Sox fan and he looked at the carpet, saying that he didn’t play for them anymore.

Bard seemed surprised that I knew he’s just been signed by Theo Epstein and the Cubs (and in Milwaukee for the game against the Brewers) and perked up saying he was glad that Theo picked him up. We had a short conversation about his time with the Sox – I thanked him for his many good innings and he was somewhat apologetic about his struggles. I was struck by how young he seemed and how he was clearly embarrassed by his poor performance with the Red Sox. He was not the arrogant and cocky professional baseball player I imagined from TV – he’s just a nice kid trying to pitch like he knows he can. How hurt he would be to know that someone started a “Daniel Bard Sucks” message board online.

I thought of Daniel Bard last week when I read about the controversy surrounding John DePetro calling union protesters “wh__res.”  While Mr. DePetro certainly has a right to use whatever language he’d like – and clearly his employer, WPRO, continues to employ him so they must approve of his behavior, I think that kind of public name-calling is intolerable in a civilized society. Whether you agree with the anti-pension reform union protesters (and I do not) calling them obscene names does not further the debate – it just makes politics more divisive and more unpleasant.

Sadly this kind of name-calling – and the labeling that follows -- is common in politics and accomplishes nothing. Whether it’s calling all Republicans “right wing extremists” (a particularly humorous label in Rhode Island where many Republicans are to the left of leading Democrats on social issues) – or hearing those same anti-pension reform union protesters yell at Treasurer Gina Raimondo, name-calling is literally a waste of breath. We’ve watched the extreme partisanship in Washington lead to a sequester and a government shutdown – it’s time to turn the page, stop the name-calling and figure out what we can do across party lines and in spite of ideological differences.

And so next time you go to a baseball game and a player on your team makes an error or gives up a grand slam, try not to boo or yell “you s_ck!”  That player is someone's son, father or husband and they probably know that they just stunk it up.

Unless of course, you’re a Yankees fan – then go ahead and let them know how you feel.

And FWIW, Daniel Bard takes a great selfie!

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