Thursday, December 13, 2007

Screwing Up the Game
by: Schvach Yid

I don’t like sports; never have, never will. But the recent hubbub about former US Senator George Mitchell’s-led investigation into illicit steroid use by professional baseball players leaves one (or at least me) with a lousier sense of what has happened to America in the past decade or two.

As a kid, I summered with my family in a Catskill Mountain bungalow colony. The place ran a day camp for the kids which I was required to attend (by my folks). Each morning, immediately following the campers’ gathering at the flagpole and our reciting the pledge of allegiance, we played softball.

I hated it. I couldn’t have given a hoot about winning some lousy game. My concern was captivated exclusively by the bees the plagued my head as I spent each morning, under the beating sun, in left field waiting for the kid playing shortstop to screw up. Thank Gd for rainy days.

We Jews have played no small role in baseball. I don’t mean among the players. Who among them was Jewish? Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg. I can’t name any others; I don’t know the sport, and I don’t care.

I don’t mean Jews in the game. I’m referring to Jews in the organized labor movement – labor unions - to which professional baseball players belong.

The names of Samuel Gompers (kavod) and Jimmy Hoffa (shander) spring to mind, of course, but so do our labor players of not quite a century ago – the laborers and factory workers who participated in the creation of labor unions.

Thanks to the labor unions we have paid vacations, paid sick leave, and other employment benefits. The establishment of OSHA can be attributed to the labor movement. Union members or not, the American worker owes a great deal to the unions.

According to the ‘Mitchell Report’, the baseball players’ union wasn’t so hot to cooperate with the investigation. I don’t have the details. I really don’t care about the details. It’s the betrayal that counts.

I have a sneaking suspicion that baseball – or at least softball – played a major role in creating and training the generation of Americans who won the Second World War. I don’t think that’s a far fetched assumption.

Baseball is part of ‘American know how’. Despite my dislike for sports, I fully understand the important lessons provided to kids playing team sports, especially baseball, and so I don’t like to see the grownups screw it up.

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