Yankees-Nationals Season Opener Overflowing in Political Overtones

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When Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer through the first pitch tonight at Nationals Park, to New York Yankees Centerfielder Aaron Hicks, it marked the return of “big four” American sports for the first time in four months. No more preseason exhibition stuff, or just sports like substances, or competition only in the lesser known professional sports leagues.

Now we have real life 2020 regular season Major League Baseball (NYY currently leads 4-1, top of the sixth during a rain delay). And like everything else in America, this event is overflowing with political overtones. Every POTUS, with the exception of Jimmy Carter and the current one, has thrown out the first pitch on opening day since William Howard Taft.

There was no President at Nats park much like there were no Racing Preidents on the field either. Instead Dr. Anthony Fauci, who played shortstop for his high school team (also captained his state title winning high school basketball team as a point guard), threw out the first ball instead. He missed the mark, but remember, he’s the nation’s chief epidemiologist, not a pitcher.

The two teams took a knee in unison together as part of an Opening Day ceremony that featured references to the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus pandemic. Players from the Yankees and the Nationals wore batting practice t-shirts stating “Black Lives Matter” and “BLM” was stenciled into the back of the pitcher’s mound at the center of the diamond.

Members of both teams then held a long black ribbon while standing spaced out along the two foul lines.

After they placed the ribbon on the ground, everyone then got down on their knees before rising for a taped version of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The stadium then showed a series of videos, about the COVID-19 pandemic and the BLM movement; the twin crises facing our nation right now. Yankees right-fielder Aaron Judge, among several other Yankees players has been very vocal about expressing his solidarity with the BLM movement.

Yanks manager Aaron Boone has encouraged his players to speak up on relevant social issues. It’s hard to say that anything is life is truly apolitical, but at the same time there are many things that just should not be overtly politicized. However, in 2020 America, a place where we’re facing a health crisis and a race relation crisis at the same time, with no true Federal leadership to speak of, unfortunately, everything has to be a political football.

“This country allows you to express yourself in many different ways, and that’s one of the beauties of it,” Boone said earlier this week.

“So I respect how anyone wants to demonstrate and whether it’s in protest or whether it’s in solidarity, whatever the reasons may be, I have no issue with that and support that. And if that comes our way as a club, I’ll stand behind whoever has a strong feeling about it one way or the other.”

He’s right everyone has freedom of speech, and to some extent we should all respect the idea of live and let live, to each his own. Of course, that attitude can only go so far, because science is not something one “chooses” to “believe” in or not. Masks work; wear them. Dr. Fauci, while yes, he’s gotten a few big things wrong when it comes to COVID, is not trying to oppress you.

He’s a health expert and expertise is something to be acknowledged, respected and in some cases celebrated. Basic human health is not a political football.

And when Boone speaks of freedom of speech, there is also the freedom for others to speak up and correct you when you are wrong.

The concept of “agree to disagree” is only reserved for very trivial matters too. It doesn’t apply when it comes to valuing basic human worth. It should go without saying that every African-American life matters, or policeman’s life, or any human life in general. Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t get.

They simply don’t realize that when you call attention towards saving the lives that are most in danger, you’re not diminishing the value of other lives. You’re simply standing up for those who need it most.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TVSports IllustratedChicago Now and SB Nation.

You can follow Banks, a former writer for Chicago Tribune.comon Twitter and his cat on Instagram.

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