Thursday, July 28, 2011

Death Threats: Why Can't We Be Friends?

Excuse me while I make a goofy music reference yet again in a blog post.

Anyway, if you guys have been watching baseball news as of late, you're probably familiar with the blown call from Tuesday morning's 19-inning finish between the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yeah, not gonna lie, that was a horrible call. But since the NL Central race is incredibly tight, the blown call is going so much deeper than that. It looks like Umpire Jerry Meals is going to be under the spotlight for quite a while about this debacle.
(Ripped from
 Although Meals has stated that he has watched the play many times and has admitted that he made a poor call, the fans and even some officials aren't even taking the admittance or apology. In fact, people want this man dead. That, indeed, had to be boldfaced. I would never joke about something like that, but it's true. Over the past day and a half, fans have been sending death threats and harassing Meals and his family. Again, more boldface. Firstly, I don't really think anyone is that crazy enough to even kill someone over something such as a missed play at home plate, but even the fact of harassment is utterly ridiculous and childish. Okay, you're a die-hard fan and your team should have clearly won the game, but it was also what--1:30 AM EST? That's what I thought.

Aside from this wonderful disaster, we have seen many different forms of harassment and death threats pertaining to athletes (and even fans). I'd like to give a synopsis of each one and give my thoughts on them. Good? Good. You wouldn't be at this point in the post if you didn't care about what I thought, right? Right.
This might be an awkward topic because you might think that I would say, "I don't blame them," or "That guy was a complete jerk anyway," but that's not necessarily true. Me being the nutty armchair analyst that I am, I like to pick things apart and research random stuff while I'm bored. Let's get to it, shall we?

Tommie Smith/John Carlos -- 1968 Olympic Games -- "Black Power Salute"

When first researching this case, I had no idea how bad this actually was until I started reading into this more. Of course, the Civil Rights Movement was still relatively huge in 1968, and escalated even further after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So now I understand why this was so huge. In the 200 meter race event, Tommie Smith won the gold in record time, while John Carlos won the bronze. During the playing of the U.S. National Anthem during the medal ceremony, Smith and Carlos both raised a fist in the air with a bowed head. How was this huge? It was so huge that Smith and Carlos were later heavily scrutinized by the U.S. sporting officials. Along with that, both men and their families received death threats for their actions during the medal ceremony. Here's the kicker--silver medalist Peter Norman, an Australian, showed sympathy toward both men and resulted in getting flack as well, such as his rejection of an Olympic team spot for the 1972 Games.
I could fully understand why this ever happened. Racism was quite the touchy subject not just in the United States, but worldwide at this time. Something such as the event that occurred in the medal ceremony was thought to be a rebellious act instead of an "human rights salute." From my perspective, however, this paved the way toward the end of prejudiced acts in an international setting. Have you ever seen the slogan "Say No To Racism" shown during World Cup games? That's one of them.

Steve Bartman -- 2003 NLCS -- "Foul Play"

This is without doubt one of the biggest sports incidents in recent history. Not only were the Chicago Cubs one game away from winning their first NL pennant since 1945, they had been heavily favored to win the World Series in 2003. Then Steve Bartman happened. Or whatever you like to think. On October 14, 2003, Bartman was sitting on the left field side along the foul like where a hit ball was heading his way. Outfielder Moises Alou was just inches away from catching the ball until he and several other people reached for the ball. Unfortunately, that ball never reached Alou's glove, but deflected off Bartman's hands instead. Then all hell soon broke loose. Bartman was escorted, fans threw stuff on the field, the Marlins scored eight runs, and the Cubs lost the series in seven games. In short, "The Curse of the Billy Goat" continues. You see, I personally know a Chicago Cubs fan (Hi, Ian!), and I bet I couldn't fathom how livid he might have been in accordance to that.
I wonder if Ride of the Valkyries was playing on Bartman's walkman.
Despite the defense for him provided by the Chicago Cubs organization and Commissioner Bud Selig, the fans really didn't give a flying flip either which way about it. His name and address were displayed on MLB message boards, and fans hunted for blood. From what I've looked up, it looks like he's changed his name. So he's out of the public eye for now. If I can't find anything, that means he wins the Helen Keller Award for playing hide and seek from the public. Eight years, a destroyed (and "sauced") baseball, and many upsets later, we're still talking about this fall fiasco.
To me, this is just a case of being at the wrong place at the exact wrong time. The main problem with this thing is that the force of fans outweighed Major League Baseball and Bartman's family and friends. I do feel bad for the guy. You shouldn't really mess with fate, I guess.

Andres Escobar -- 1994 FIFA World Cup -- "Gambling with Goals"

Now, this man was a well-respected Colombian footballer that was on the receiving end of something incredibly larger than ever imagined: drugs and gambling. To this day, "The Gentleman of Football" is still well-respected in his home nation, and his untimely fate only increases his love and respect from loved ones. During the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in the United States (you know, with the opening ceremony TV event that was interrupted by a white Bronco...nevermind), a lot of events were taking place underground back in Colombia. Because the World Cup is a really big deal in many countries. Many drug lords had placed bets on games and would do anything in their power to get their money. Some guys wouldn't be very happy after June 22, 1994. While trying to block a cross pass, defender Escobar deflected a spiraling ball straight into his own net. This own goal resulted in a win (2-1) for the United States, and the elimination of Team Colombia.
After the World Cup, Escobar went home to Colombia and went to a nightclub on July 2nd with several friends. However, he had split up with his friends and was left alone. After running into an altercation with a few people, handguns were pulled and Escobar was shot to death outside of the Colombian nightclub; apparently his killers had screamed "Gol" after each shot was fired. This is where death threats are completely avoided and the deaths actually happen.
This is horrible. All over drugs and money too. One life is not worth this. Okay, it was an own goal. It sucks, but who ever said gambling was a good thing? You have the capability of putting lives in jeopardy over something that has the capability of ruining your own life in drugs and money. It's incredibly harsh and horrific, and nothing should ever escalate to this over a sporting event. There I go with my boldface again. It needed to be done though. And to think that this could have all been avoided if he had stayed with relatives in the United States during that time.
This is what happens when death threats and harassment go over the limit.

Bill Buckner -- 1986 World Series -- "Grounded by a Curse"

This may arguably be the most unfortunate thing to ever happen to a baseball player. Considering that your team hadn't won the World Series in 1918 and you were up three games to two in the World Series, you pretty much had to be on your toes at all times. After taking a 5-3 lead in the 10th inning in Game 6 of the World Series, Bob Stanley was on the mound for the Red Sox. There was a runner on second and third with two outs and the Mets' Mookie Wilson was up to bat. A simple dribbler was hit up the first base line...where it went right through Bill Buckner's legs, resulting in both runs scoring and the game to end 6-5. By the way, the Mets then won Game 7. Commence more hell breaking loose and a lot of death threats coming toward Buckner's way, courtesy of the Boston fans. They neither blamed Stanley nor Calvin Schiraldi for this matter; they went and blamed an error by a productive infielder. The Red Sox later released him the next year despite the fact that he was still doing well.
Oh. Crap.
Don't lie--you know Boston may be a brutal city and you might have never ever step foot there. They, like Chicago, are very passionate about their sports and they were rather unfortunate to see a bad thing like that happen to a really good player. No lying...check his stats online. It's a shame that an event like this overshadows all of the good things he did.
You know, my one softball coach taught a life lesson to never let a ball go between your legs (har har har I made a subliminal funny). Buckner did that and practically screwed his franchise over until 2004. This is just when a little slip-up can really make you a legend in the worst way possible. Heck, I feel bad for him being butchered during the film Fever Pitch (or The Perfect Catch in the UK). In short, I think now that the curse is reversed per se, I think he'll be able to rest easy. He received a large ovation after throwing the first pitch in 2008 at Fenway Park--right after the Red Sox won their second championship in four years in 2007. He claimed to not forgive the fans, but the media for what they had put him and his family through. That I totally understand. The media could be your best friend or your worst enemy; there are no gray lines when it comes to something like that.

There are several other historical issues occurring in sports history, such as the death threats toward baseball great Jackie Robinson after breaking the color barrier. I could go on and on about these other ones, but to me, these four cases I just mentioned stick out in my mind as being some of the biggest in sports history. The ones I mention involve destruction, disowning, harassment, and even death. It's scary seeing what can happen if someone makes a false move, isn't it? It almost makes you not want to play (or spectate) again because fans could have you walking on eggshells if a false move is made during something important.

From my perspective, being a die-hard fan of a team is like being in a horribly abusive relationship: they can break your heart countless times, but you can't give them any form of payback; that, and you also come running back to them unconditionally when things start looking up in some way. Do not confuse this comparison with the concept of the bandwagon. The bandwagon is like, the "one-night-stand" of sports. It's like scoring a hot chick (or guy in my case) and then come back when they're pretty much dangling bait in front of you (i.e. some sort of ring).

I went off-topic. Oops.

If you want my opinion about all of this, harassment and threatening is not the way to go about things at all. It would only have been appropriate in the Stone Age when we only grunted to communicate and to solve problems we just had huge rocks and sticks to settle scores. We're a little more mature and advanced than that, don't you think? It's okay to be angry at one player/team and all, but the wrong thing to do is to take that next step and just do something you're ultimately going to regret. The last time I checked, athletes are people too; ergo, they have feelings just like you and I. I hope I'm not telling you anything new on this, because that would be pretty sad. Usually athletes (or other people) acknowledge when they've screwed up. You don't have to inflate the picture for them. However, tt would be another thing if the person denies a screw-up and just act like a heel to everyone...then you can start carrying torches and pitchforks and such. Just kidding. It's still wrong.

Another thing that interests me about some of these cases is that they were heavily blown up by the media and really wrecked a few family member's lives. I didn't really realize that until I read into Bill Buckner's case. If not for the constant focus of the media, some of these things wouldn't be so prominent in people's memories, and other people involved in the case would be able to rest easier than usual. I guess that was just me seeing things through rose-colored glasses because I'm going to be fighting my way into the field after next May.

I think this post alone just adds on to the fact that man will never have self-control and that we should all be institutionalized at some point in life. The things we do because we love so much...

[Now watch the Pirates win the World Series and all of this stuff involving Jerry Meals will be out the window and everyone will be happy again. If that does happen and if I were Meals, I'd be kicking the stuffing out of people for being two-faced. That's just me being a feisty lady though.]


(Information from MLB, Baseball Reference, ESPN, among numerous sporting blogs)