[Note: I’ve been working on starting this blog for a little while now. I don’t plan on doing many posts that are about sports or politics or are even topical. I have a few drafts for a number of posts I’m still working on for this blog’s ‘official launch,’ but I just needed to get this out of my system. Consider this my soft launch. This post is dated, overlong, self-righteous, and needlessly autobiographical. It’s about two of the most unpleasant topics to read or write about: racism and The Mets. As I wrote it, I came to realize that I can barely write anymore. I’m trying to get better and I promise they won’t all be like this.]
It is a stupid thing to be a fan of a professional sports team. This is not a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of opportunities for sports to have a positive impact on our lives. This is not true of the way most Americans consume the professional “Big Four” sports. Take me for example. I get outside to play games with friends on average once a week in the warmer months, but most of my interaction with sports involve sitting on a couch watching games we are all paying for no matter what. Sometimes I spend a little extra and see a game in person. Like many overweight Americans, watching sports for me often involves eating fattening foods and drinking soda or beer. Emotionally investing yourself in a uniform owned by fabulously wealthy men over the players that struggle to play at the highest levels is just moronic. That hasn’t stopped me or millions of Americans from doing it for years.
Going a step further, it is a stupid thing for me to be a fan of The New York Mets. My father and his father were Yankees fans. Learning about baseball in the mid 80’s, the Mets players were on TV and in print all the time. The Worst Team Money Could Buy era scared me off following the team during my teens, when a young person’s interest generally wander anyways. I eventually came back, but why I did is a question that I lack the introspection to answer
Whatever the reason, I am a Mets fan. I buy shirts and hats and go down to Citi Field when I can. I enjoy watching games when I have the time, but I catch most of them on the radio. When I was a boy, I used to put my robot-shapped AM/FM radio under my pillow during summer nights and fall asleep listening to the heroics of Daryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, and the rest of the bad guys. I was there in person when when R.A. Dickey won his twentieth game in 2012 and I made some weird noises when Zack Wheeler struck out Brian McCann in his major league debut. I do all this in spite of the people I who profit from my emotional and financial investment.
The Mets are not a well run team. They embarrass themselves so often, Deadspin has a tag dedicated to their failures. When they started play in 1962, the Mets were known as loveable losers. While the team has enjoyed success from time to time (four trips to the World Series with two wins over fifth years), this is the mold they most often fit into. They do things poorly, but it’s just baseball. You can’t help but laugh. Their most recent PR nightmare goes beyond that.
The New York Times has a story about The Mets’ botched Native American Heritage Day. The team invited American Indian Community House to feature dancing, music, & other cultural events alongside a home game. There was, of course, a group sales component to this, where the AICH reserved a block of seats at a discounted rate that their supporters could purchase to view both the game and the cultural festivities. It’s called cause marketing; a business and a charity leverage each others’ resources for higher visibility and/or revenues. It’s a symbiotic relationship where everyone wins, except when one side screws it up in the most offensive way possible.
Native American Hertitage Day was scheduled for a game against the Atlanta Braves. Worrying that the Braves organization would view the singing and dancing program as a protest against their racist logos and crowd chant, the Mets cancelled almost every part of the programming, causing the AICH to drop out of the day.
By pulling out of the event and sharing their story with the Times, the AICH made the right move and highlighted not just the Mets’ stupidity, but once again brought a focus to the shameful treatment of Native Americans by our national pastime and its fans.
There is no question that the continued use of Native American stereotypes as American sports mascots is racist and painful. I know that there are a lot of Braves fans, Redskins fans, fake Indians, lazy pollsters, and other privileged people who disagree, but I consider the matter settled. As a Braves-hating Mets fan, I may be biased, so here are just two of the many articles explaining some of the problems involved. I picked these two because they were written actual Native Americans, of which there are no longer many left.
It’s so Metsian that not only do they tactily endorse the racism of The Braves every time they play them, but are worried about offending them.
Who should really be offended? I know I’m upset, but that doesn’t really stop me from cheering for Matt Harvey at The All Star Game or David Wright at the Home Run Derby. There is a deep, stupid, emotional investment I have in those guys just because they wear blue and orange. I have no answers about how to change things for the better, but I at least wanted to add my voice to the chorus of people who think that how Americans handle our relationship with the descendants of the natives of our homeland needs to change.