End Of Week Ethics Alarms, 10/11/2019: The Liberty Under Attack Edition


I’m looking forward to the weekend  even though I’ll be working throughout.

I’m obviously an idiot.

1. My Ethics Alarms doesn’t even “ping!” on this one.  KTVU, the Bay Area’s Fox affiliate, summarized the St. Louis Cardinals’ devastating win over the Braves in Game 5 of the National League Division Series with a chyron reading, “Braves Scalped.” The Horror! Exclaimed the always sensitive Yahoo! Sports, “That’s straight out of the yikes factory. Particularly given the conversation that’s surrounded the Braves recently. A Cardinals pitcher of Native American descent objected to the Braves’ infamous tomahawk chop and the team responded Wednesday by toning down its use of the chop. There’s not any good time to roll out a “scalped” headline, but this was a particularly bad one.” The headline to the story says the headline is “racist.”

OK, why? I want one good reason. If a team is going to call itself something other than “The Baseball Players,” which would be strikingly unoriginal, you have to admit, then metaphors and colorful language relating to that teams’ nickname are automatically appropriate. “Orioles’/Cardinals’/Bluejays’ Wings Clipped!”…”Red Sox/Whie Sox unravel!”…”Tigers/Cubs/ Declawed!”…”Nats Swatted!”…”Giants Dwarfed!”…  “Pirates Walk The Plank!”…”Diamondbacks Rattled!”…”Mariners Sink!” But “Braves (or Indians) Scalped!” is an outrage? The team lost 13-1! The Braves were down 10-0 after the first half-inning; it was an epic slaughter. I could u8nderstand the discomfort if Native Americans never scalped their adversaries, but they did. This isn’t some kind of historical slander. Let’s see…here’s some of a rather scholarly article on the subject of scalping…

…the languages of the eastern Indians contained many words to describe the scalp, the act of scalping, and the victim of scalping. A Catholic priest among the Hurons in 1623 learned that an onontsira was a war trophy consisting of “the skin of the head with its hair.” The five languages of the Iroquois were especially rich in words to describe the act …To the Mohawks and Oneidas, the scalp was onnonra ; the act of taking it, kannonrackwan . Their western brothers at Onondaga spoke of hononksera , a variation of the Huron word. And although they were recorded after initial contact with the Europeans, the vocabularies of the other Iroquois nations and of the Delaware, Algonquin, Malecite, Micmac, and Montagnais all contained words for scalp, scalping, and the scalped that are closely related to the native words for hair, head, skull, and skin. That these words were obviously not borrowed from European languages lends further support to the notion that they were native to America and deeply rooted in Indian life….paintings and drawings reinforce that image. The single most important picture in this regard is Theodore de Bry’s engraving of Le Moyne’s drawing of “How Outina’s Men Treated the Enemy Dead.” Based on Le Moyne’s observations in 1564-65, the 1591 engraving was the first pictorial representation of Indian scalping, one faithful to Le Moyne’s verbal description and to subsequent accounts from other regions of eastern America. The details—sharp reeds to extract the scalp, drying the green skin over a fire, displaying the trophies on long poles, and later celebrating the victory with established rituals by the sorcerer—lend authenticity to De Bry’s rendering and support to the argument for the Indian invention of scalping….[I]n the end, the American stereotype of scalping must stand as historical fact, whether we are comfortable with it or not.”

In summary, the word was obviously not meant literally to refer to a baseball game. Nor was the use of it was in no way libelous to real Native Americans. Yahoo’s pearl-clutching, and that of social media political correctness cops, is more offensive by far than the Fox chryon.

2.  As if you didn’t have to jump through too many hoops to fly already…In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which made the addition of a star to state IDs  and drivers licenses necessary to have access to nuclear power plants and federal facilities. Then some genius decided that access to airplanes should be added to the list. Continue reading

The Ozzie Albies Exension, Or “How DARE A Baseball Player Consider Anything Important Other Than Money?”

The Atlanta Braves announced a contract extension with second baseman Ozzie Albies guaranteeing the 22-year-old third year players a total of $35 million  from 2019 tp 2025. He’ll earn $1million apiece in 2019 and 2020, $3 million in 2021, $5MM in 2022, and $7MM annually from 2023 through 2025. The contract includes two  club options reportedly valued at $7million each; the first one comes with a $4 million buyout. If both are exercised, Albies will earn  $45 million over the next nine seasons .

Executives, players, stat-heads and scouts are all  condemning the Albies extension, alternately calling it a terrible deal for Albies, unethical exploitation by the team, and selfish betrayal by the player.

Here’s NBC Sports…

Front offices deciding, seemingly simultaneously, to stop spending on free agents in their 30’s stagnated the market. Then, because of the stagnated market they created, the owners get to collectively save billions of dollars in the coming years by nudging their young players into signing extensions well before their primes, before they have established leverage with which to negotiate. Free agency is then further stagnated because these players will be reaching it at 29 and 30, rather than 26. …In these young stars and potential stars signing away their arbitration-eligible seasons, they will fail to help set higher and higher bars at each step of the arbitration process.

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sid Bream

sid_breamYou all remember Sid Bream, don’t you? Well, probably not: he was a mediocre first baseman about 20 years ago who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves. He hasn’t been heard from in a long time, being quietly retired, but the Braves may be hosting the Pirates in an upcoming National League Division Playoff Series as the baseball post season gets underway, and they invited Bream to throw out the first pitch in Game #1 if that is the case—-Pittsburgh has to win a wildcard play-off game with Cincinnati first. You see, the one thing in his career that Bream is remembered for, at least in Atlanta, is scoring the run that won the National League Championship Series over the Pirates in 1992, in a close play that also lives in Pirates’ fans nightmares.

Throwing out the first pitch is fun: the team flies you in and pays for your hotel, gives you a prime ticket, and then announces your name as you trot on the field to cheers. If you have kept your arm in shape, you might even get off a throw to the catcher from the pitcher’s mound that doesn’t embarrass you, and that will acquire more cheers. from the packed stadium. Wait…this is Atlanta, not Boston. OK, from the two-thirds filled stadium. Even then, what’s not to like?

But Sid Bream turned the Braves down. Remember that I began by saying that he played for both the Braves and the Pirates. He said,

“Whatever their motive (for the invite) was, I don’t want to be involved. I wasn’t surprised (by the offer). Whether their motive was to rub it in the Pirates’ faces, I don’t know. I think it was just more of a gesture to commemorate those two teams getting back together in the postseason. But I’ll stay neutral. I’m not going to do anything to tell the fans in Atlanta or Pittsburgh that I’m (rooting) one way or the other.”

Oh, I think it’s fair to say that rubbing the Pirates’ faces in their last loss to the Braves in a postseason game was exactly what the Braves had in mind. This kind of voodoo has been a standard part of baseball gamesmanship for a long time: nobody believes that the Yankees had Bucky Dent throw out the first pitch when the Yankees had a crucial playoff game against Boston (which they lost) in 2004 “to commemorate those two teams getting back together in the postseason.” It’s psychological warfare, and more or less good-natured; there’s nothing wrong with it, and there would have been nothing wrong with Bream agreeing to play along.

But Sid Bream is, it seems, loyal. He was a Pittsburgh Pirate for a long time, a Brave only for a couple of years, and he doesn’t feel like being part of one of his former teams’ effort to unsettle the other one, even though its’ no big deal, and even though his old team won’t hold it against him. It just would feel right to him.

This is called integrity.

Good for Sid Bream.


Pointer, Graphic and Facts: NBC Sports


Ethics Dunces: Atlanta Braves Fans

The Atlanta Braves lost the first ever National league Wild Card play-off game, 6-3, to the St. Louis Cardinals, thanks primarily to their own atrocious fielding (the Braves made three costly errors.) Nonetheless, many fans felt they “wuz robbed” because of a bizarre play in the 8th inning, when the Cardinals were rescued from a bases loaded, one out situation after the game’s left field umpire, Sam Holbrook, apparently feeling that he had to do something to justify being on the field (regular season games don’t have left field umpires), called the infield fly rule on a pop-up that landed safely in the outfield. The infield fly rule is designed to prevent sneaky double plays, and is called when an easy pop-up might be intentionally dropped by an infielder. Thus the ball is an out whether it is caught or not.

There were three problems with the call. First, it was called very late in the play, after it was evident that the Cardinals fielders might not catch it. Second, given its placement, letting the ball drop to try to get a double play really wasn’t an option. And, third, as I noted, the ball landed in the outfield, which an infield fly is not supposed to do. The Braves argued the call, to no avail.

Then the Braves fans at Turner Field, perhaps primed by left-over anger at the NFL’s departed replacement refs, proceeded to act like total jackasses by throwing every piece of junk and debris they could get their hands on down onto the field. Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Offensive Team Name

The London, Ontario independent baseball team has decided to rename itself “The London Rippers.”

Jack's last victim: a logo, perhaps?

The city’s mayor has expressed concerns about the name, and good for him. This isn’t a manufactured political correctness complaint, based on the dubious logic that it demeans a group to honor it with an athletic team name. This is the opposite: a team name that honors a serial killer who disemboweled poor women in the slums of London in 1888. Misogyny isn’t cute or funny, and anyone who thinks that making Jack the Ripper a team symbol is anything but one more outrage perpetrated against his pathetic victims but gets indignant over the Atlanta Braves has his head on upside-down and backwards.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that an association of serial killers will protest that the name “London Rippers” dehumanizes them and puts them in the same category with lions, tigers and bears. In such an eventuality, I would side with the associations of lions, tigers and bears protesting that the name denigrates them. Sportswriting lawyer Craig Calcaterra, a sharp baseball mind whose NBC column alerted me to this story, somehow misses the point by a mile, writing:

“…Jack the Ripper did his work, like, 130 years ago. Murder is murder and it’s always awful, but at what point has enough time passed to where this kind of thing isn’t a problem?  And yes, I note the mayor’s nod to ending violence against women, but does a reference to a 19th century British serial killer who is more often fictionalized today than dealt with in his brutal reality really undermine those laudable aims?
I’m not saying it’s 100% fabulous. But really, kids were singing about Lizzie Borden taking an axe and giving her mother 40 whacks within a few years of that going down. Is it really too soon to be able to use a  long-dead historical figure as a mascot? There are a bunch teams called “crusaders” and the crusades were brutal. We still have Chief Wahoo around, and you can make an argument that the thinking behind that mascot (i.e. Indians are somehow less-than-human) represented way more death and destruction than anything Jack the Ripper did.”

Ugh. How many rationalizations are in this passage? Playground chants about Lizzie Borden (or the Black Plague, which is what “Ring around the rosey” is about) are not remotely comparable to naming a community’s baseball team after a serial killer. Playground refrains don’t become part of a community’s identity, and they don’t in any way bestow prestige on the dark subjects of their rhymes. Teams named after crusaders, warriors, braves and pirates don’t aspire to honor the deaths caused by these groups, any more than teams are named the Lions or Tigers because they have mauled people, or the Cardinals and Orioles are so named because the birds poop on our heads. There one reason, and only one, Jack the Ripper is famous. He slit the throats of desperate prostitutes and dissected them,: in the case of Mary Kelly, he minced his victim, leaving her internal organs on her night table. The London Ripper sent body parts of one victim to police, and taunted them. He didn’t possess a single admirable quality to justify a connection to a sports team, unless there are professional misogyny, mayhem or maniac leagues somewhere.

And Craig’s argument that is an expiration date on the offensiveness of trivializing tragedy is the worst of all. Seriously, Craig? So Penn State can call its wrestling team “the Molesters” in 100 years or so? What he’s really endorsing is ignorance. Kids who chant about the bubonic plague don’t realize it, and neither do their parents. That a lot of people don’t know the truth behind all the fictional Jack the Ripper tales is an argument for enlightening them, not pretending that killing prostitutes is just fun and games.

The mayor of London is right, Craig  is wrong, and if there ever was an inappropriate and harmful  team name, the London Rippers is it.

Most Unethical Bobblehead EVER

The vile bobblehead

In Game two of the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Altanta Braves, Brave outfielder Ron Gant singled and rounded the bag, drawing a throw to first base. He appeared to beat the throw to the bag, but the Twins’ jumbo first baseman, Kent Hrbek,  wrapped his arm around Gant’s leg and lifted him off the base as he applied the tag. First base umpire Drew Coble managed to completely miss Hrbek’s illegal tactic, and called Gant out to end the inning. The Twins went on to win that game by one run, and in one of the closest Series of all time, also won the World Championship, 4 games to 3.

Hrbek’s muscling of Gant off of first base has been widely regarded as one of the most egregious examples of cheating by a player in baseball’s 130 year history. So, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Minnesota World Series triumph, the Twins will hold a special “1991 World Series Champs Reunion Weekend” promotion featuring members of the 1991 team at the August 5 game, and the first 10,000 fans through the gates will receive a free Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant bobblehead, depicting the infamous play. Continue reading