Well, we have baseball. With no possibility of an agreement on a longer season between the owners and the players’ union, the owners have reverted to the March agreement and imposed a 60-game season with prorated pay, set to begin in late July. The union will likely file a grievance, claiming MLB failed to do its best to play as many games as possible and only chose 60 to save money (true). Tensions between the two sides will remain high, and this will probably be just the beginning of a long few years of labor disputes.

Meanwhile, some of the game’s biggest writers like Buster Olney are stuck in a brain rut of “both-sides-ism.” Read this nonsense:

Here are things I do not understand: Why did it take so long for Major League Baseball and the players’ association to get to this moment when they agreed on just about nothing? Why did the stewards of the game recklessly drag it over the past six weeks? Why is the relationship between the union and MLB so toxic and unproductive? Why was there such tone-deafness to the national and international context?…This is what is worst about baseball: that the potential for labor strife will continue to loom over the sport, so long as the owners remain tethered to incrementalism and the union leadership remains so generally passive and obstructionist in its engagement. The two sides need to find a way to build and grow their sport together.

Anyone who has followed politics in the last ten years should understand how cowardly, basic, and genuinely pandering this kind of writing is. I’m not kidding when I call it a brain worm; people like Olney have lost the ability to analyze a dispute and discern complicated issues, so they do write comes easiest and what they think will earn them applause: Gee whiz, why don’t both sides get their act together?

(By the way, re: the union, you can’t be both “passive” and “obstructionist.” The union was neither, for what it’s worth, but those terms are contradictions.)

And the “both sides” deficiency always comes in tandem with a “won’t you think about the poor fans??” argument. It kills me that he writes about the “tone-deafness to the national and international context.” First off, the only one who’s tone-deaf here is Olney, because I can tell you that within the context of our current nightmare, nobody actually gives a shit about baseball in any deeper political sense. Yes, we’d like to have it back. Of course! But Olney is imagining masses of people marching around with pitchforks demanding a compromise because this country just needs baseball right now. And that the owners and players should put that deep need in front of their selfish interests.

Nope. Not the case. The emergence of a pandemic doesn’t mean the players or owners should stop fighting for their interests, and it doesn’t mean the fans or the country deserve capitulation. Baseball would be a nice diversion, but it can’t do anything profound for us, and nobody believes it can. You’ve read what I’ve written on the labor dispute, and you know I support the players. I don’t need to repeat myself on that front. But even if you support the owners, Olney’s blurry vision of some great unity is deluded; he imagines that COVID-19 should usher in some kind of negotiation utopia. But why would it? Both sides have their beliefs, those beliefs are extremely far apart, and the only “compromise” would involve one side giving in.

You’ll notice that Olney offers no vision of what this would look like. That’s because it was never a real possibility. He just wants to wave a magic wand, and it results in the laziest brand of analysis possible. This is what happens when you won’t delve into the issues, won’t understand the conflict, and are too scared or ignorant to take a side.

Imagine being a player, or someone in the union, and fighting your corner resolutely in the face of the owners trying to screw you out of your salaries. Imagine dealing with all their leaks, their bad faith negotiations, and their attempts to demonize you in the public eye. Then imagine that when it comes to a standstill, you have to read a big name like Olney tell you that you should have just caved because of a virus. Because that’s ultimately what people like Olney advocate for, even if they don’t know it; if you don’t take the time to understand something you’re supposed to be covering, you become a useful idiot for the worst side in a conflict. It’s dereliction of journalistic duty, basically, and he should give his spot to someone like Hannah Keyser who would do some good with all that access.

It may seem like I’m attacking Olney unnecessarily here, but he’s been at this for a few weeks now, particularly with the “do it for the good of the people!” pandering…which, as mentioned, takes the place of doing real journalism. So, two questions. First, why do “celebrity journalists” like Olney inevitably lose their edge?

Second, is there a statue of Buster Olney we can tear down somewhere? If not, can we build one?

Other Stuff

The NASCAR stuff has been truly wild, and the revelation that the “noose” in Bubba Wallace’s garage was actually just a looped rope used to pull down the door is one of those head-smacking absurdities that seems to keep happening. The belief that the noose threat was real resulted in some nice scenes of solidarity at Talladega, but it’s also the case that the whole thing now looks pretty embarrassing, and gives some fuel to the Confederate heritage people who want to paint themselves as being unfairly persecuted. It’s a very 2020 nightmare. I wrote a piece on it for Digest that will go up later this morning, and I’ll link it here when it does. Edit: Here you go.

Also, there were at least two more positive tests on the PGA Tour (edit: add Koepka’s caddie to the list), Lakers guard Avery Bradley won’t play the rest of the NBA season in order to protect his family (his son has respiratory issues), the NYC marathon is canceled, and I hate to be all doom and gloom, but…are any of these sports really going to be happening in a month? Especially with states like Florida absolutely exploding with new cases?

We’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see. I’ll leave it there, now that I’ve probably ruined your mood for the day. More smiles tomorrow, I promise.


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