The Pitcher And his Non-Fan
So it’s come to this. It isn’t enough to use past juvenile tweets as a means to shame and subordinate professional athletes. Now the sportswriting establishment is lobbying for teams to exercise control over their social media conduct and style even when no slurs or even alleged slurs are involved.
Trevor Bauer is an established major league starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, finally emerging a s star after many years of dreaded “potential.” He’s not a kid–he’s 27—but in his public dealings and image be appears to be about 14. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. He plays a kid’s game, and young sportswriters cheer players now who make faces, preen, trash talk and engage in extreme on-the-field celebrations. Dignity on the field is considered passe, a problem for baseball. Be out there! Show personality!
Ah, but some sportswriters have decided that they are the arbiters of what kind of eccentricities are acceptable, even off the field. For some reason, sports media like NBC Sports and ESPN have decided to pollute sports reporting with the unqualified declarations of woke and aspiring social justice warriors. I know not why, unless it is part of the full immersion progressive indoctrination strategy that the news media has joined.
At NBC Sports, two baseball writers, Bill Baer and Craig Calcaterra, are such devoted leftist propagandists that any regular reader can predict their screeds before reading them. If the baseball page isn’t just lifting news unaccredited from other sites (MLB Trade Rumors, diligent, competent, and blissfully politics free, is the main victim), Baer or Calcaterra are making arguments that Rep. Oacsio-Cortez would endorse in a heartbeat. For example, they believe that it is travesty of justice that team owners aren’t willing to pay millionaire players what the players feel they “deserve” rather than what is prudent for the owners’ budgets and what makes sense based on reasonable assessments of a players’ value.
Recently Bill Baer decided to demand the Indians and MLB “do something” about Trevor Bauer. The full presumptuousness and arrogance of his argument cannot be appreciated without quoting him extensively, which I will do now, with periodic commentary. The post is headlined, “Indians, MLB need to take Trevor Bauer’s harassing tweets seriously.”
He begins by an unethical device called “poisoning the well,” using an irrelevant episode or accusation to pre-bias readers:
Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is what we extremely online people call “extremely online” [which means] to inculcate oneself to Internet culture, including humor. Bauer exemplified this last year when he went to arbitration with the Indians. He wanted to file for $6.9 million, but …the right-hander was warned that the figure was too high and could result in him losing his case. He then wanted to file for $6,420,969.69. Why 69? As any teenager can tell you, it references a sexual position and that’s funny stuff on the Internet. Why 420? Well, that references April 20, or 4/20, a day of celebration for marijuana enthusiasts…Bauer started “The 69 Days of Giving” in which he would donate $420.69 daily to a different charity. On the 69th and final day, he pledged to donate $69,420.69 to a secret charity. So, that gives you a bit of a picture of Bauer’s personality and sense of humor. .
Oh, who cares? I love “offensive jokes” that have to be explained so people can find them offensive. The encomium that “if you detect a dog whistle, you’re the dog” seems apt here. Who, except geeks like Baer, look for coded drug and sex messages in salary demands? But Baer was just getting warmed up…
That was mostly fine until two days ago when Bauer responded to a critic on Twitter. The critic, a baseball fan named Nikki, wrote of Bauer, “My new least favorite person in all sports,” tagging Bauer’s Twitter account (@BauerOutage). Bauer responded, “Welcome to the fan club” and included a kiss emoji. If that was the start and end of it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But Bauer persisted, repeatedly going after her. …Bauer also replied to Nikki’s tweets publically – direct replies can only be seen by those who follow both parties – which allowed all 134,000 of his followers to get in on the drama and chime in. Bauer was repeatedly inviting his fans to harass Nikki on his behalf, and they did. Nikki ended up temporarily deleting her account. Responding to a Bauer fan who criticized her for deleting, Nikki wrote, “Sorry I didn’t like being told to kill my self for 4 days straight. You’re right. I’m so soft.”
…Why is Bauer’s behavior wrong? Simply put, it’s because there’s a power imbalance and Bauer exploited that to harass a woman, a baseball fan. Even after the online fracas with Bauer, Nikki has only 600 followers. Only a handful of people would go to bat for Nikki, but even a tiny percentage of Bauer’s 134,000 followers going after Nikki constitutes a gross amount of abuse. Let’s say that only 0.5 percent got involved. That’s still 670 people — more than Nikki’s entire follower count. It’s tough to get an actual count of just how many people were in Nikki’s mentions as a result of her interactions with Bauer, but a cursory search shows it’s quite a lot.
In short, Bauer wielded his power – his fame and online influence – improperly and unfairly towards Nikki. He bullied her. It is also notable that Bauer chose to obsess this way over a female critic. He has never gone to this length to challenge a male critic.
Now that Bauer has gone Full Social Justice #MeToo Virtue-Signaling Avenger, let’s unpack this.
First, this isn’t “harassment” by any legal or ethical definition. The woman, who for all Bauer knew could have been a dog, or President Trump, gratuitously attacked him, calling him in an early tweet, ” a professional athlete that tweets like a 16 year girl on her period.” Should Bauer have taken the bait and engaged in a nasty exchange? It was unwise. It was imprudent. It was tit-for-tat. However, the playing field was Twitter, and the fan voluntarily engaged him on it. Baer’s argument makes no sense: he is arguing that a non-celebrity can attack a celebrity online and in social media, but if the celebrity strikes back in kind, it’s “punching down.”
Balderdash. Continue reading