Ethics Dunces: Boston Red Sox Players

owens pole

Yesterday, while watching the Boston Red Sox game on NESN as I always do EVEN WHEN THE TEAM STINKS, like this year, because no summer soldier I, team broadcasters Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy pointed out that Sox rookie Henry Owens was watching the game while being taped to a pole, with his mouth taped shut as well.

This is old-fashioned baseball rookie hazing, as Remy explained (also opining that he thought it was stupid when he played and is stupid now). The theory is that this makes rookies part of the team, builds cohesion and spirit, and yada yada yada, all the same phony rationalizations that jerks have used to excuse hazing cruelty and sadism in fraternities, the military, cults and sports teams for eons. The Owens stunt was relatively mild (and mercifully short), but the practice of hazing is still institutionalized bullying, uncivilized, and, as Remy said, stupid.

Sports team players are home town heroes, and role models too. How many kids will be humiliated, tortured, injured or even killed because the Boston Red Sox thought it was funny to immobilize a 6’6″ rookie pitcher by taping him to a pole on live TV, thus teaching him that no matter how  good he may be at pitching (and Owens is going to be really good), he’s at the bottom of the pecking order until he “earns” decent treatment and respect. “In my experience, the guys who really liked hazing the rookies were the players who couldn’t play,” noted Jerry, a Sox regular in the Eighties.  They were sadistic bullies, in other words, making up for their own inadequacies by abusing others.

You can say that Owens consented, and that’s like arguing that Monica consented when the President of the United States wanted her to emulate a Bourbon Street hooker. Owens could refuse, and be regarded as a bad team mate, leading to a year or more of cut shoelaces, shredded uniforms, insulting messages on his locker and worse “jokes.” Or he could quit baseball and sell Slurpees rather than make a gazillion dollars. He had to submit, and had to smile about it.

So he did.

Even baseball players need to be better at ethics chess than this, and calculate the likely consequences of their conduct. Hazing is unethical, and glamorizing, modeling and trivializing it on TV is irresponsible.

And stupid.

11 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Boston Red Sox Players

  1. When confronted, the average hazer will tell you two things: 1) I’m doing this to build character (at the Military Academies, they say the victim needs to learn to FOLLOW orders before learning to give them) and; 2) It was done to me and I turned out all right.
    1) Most people learned to follow orders at an early age, when we still had effective parenting. If you have to w2ait until you’re 18-19 to learn to follow orders, you’re in deep kimchi anyway; and 2) Actually, no you didn’t. You turned out to be a cruel, unthinking, bullying, sadistic jerk, with no hope of ever turning into a human being. It is one thing to teach someone how to do or become something. It is quite another to heap scorn on someone else’s innocent head in vengeance for having that same scorn heaped on yours.

  2. Hazing has been shown to make people more devoted to the organization. It is a form of brainwashing, that is why it is done.

    However, I don’t think you are going to make much headway on ethics in sports. Did you see the two players in Texas that blindsided a ref in retaliation for ejecting two of their teammates. In spite of this, no one is suggesting punishment for the team or the coach. The press is even gearing up to defend the players because they said the ref uttered a ‘racial slur’ when ejecting the first two players.

  3. Some of the “Hazing” can be amusing and a bit more productive. On an end of season road trip rookies were required to wear a costume of their favorite cartoon/super hero character. I believe pictures were taken, autographed and sold at auction.

    In football there are camp skits to perform and to sing your school song.

      • Could not agree move. Hazing is a problem in non sports activities and even what may appear as harmless “fun” by young adults in the pros and college can lead to out of bounds activities elsewhere. MLB (and other sports) have discontinued behavior issues such as smokeless tobacco.

        Some of it (hazing) is amusing, productive and non-threatening, but that fine line?

  4. I’ve got a great idea for a hazing ritual. When a rookie comes in for the first time, everyone tells him, “Welcome to the team. We’re going to do everything we can to help you thrive as a part of this organization, and we expect you to do the same for us. Let’s win at some sports ball.”

  5. So in high school, they used to paddle guys before they could become members of Key Club or Wheel Club, the legitimate high school version of a fraternity (as opposed to the unofficial fraternities that were actually proto gangs). Why would anyone join something that required you to bend over and get your rear end beat by a wooden plank? In college, why would anyone pledge for a fraternity? A mystery.

  6. In the Corps we had a tradition of pinning on Stripes by punching someone in the arm when they got promoted. When you picked up Cpl. you also got the blood stripe on the trousers pinned on by being kneed in the thigh. This went from a good natured light punch and kneeing to people hitting and kneeing you as hard as they could. Its now against orders to do this as people were ending up in the hospital.

    In my last squadron or CO banned it before the Corps did and said that anyone doing it would be brought up on charges.

    So instead of doing this we created a new tradition. We threw the promoted Marine into Kaneohe Bay from the old sea plane ramps on the flight line.

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