By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Think of what it would have looked and sounded like Monday night. Hector Noesi of the visiting Chicago White Sox pitching to Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, the ball sailing over the outfield wall, Jones trotting around the bases.
But all to the soundtrack of a smattering of applause of a few hundred people so scattered and fractured within a large stadium. Regardless of enthusiasm of each individual spectator, the overall barrenness of the stadium would make the environment too cavernous to sound anything but like a collective apathy toward the game action.
Had the White Sox and Orioles played their scheduled game Monday night, the appearance of apathy would have taken on a larger role than just the volume of applause in the Camden Yards seats. While severe social unrest gripped the city of Baltimore in the wake of questions following the death of Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed while in police custody, a Major League Baseball game had no business taking place in the same city. Lest baseball wish to advertise apathy to the situation outside the brick walls of the stadium.
Monday night’s game was postponed about a half-hour before the first pitch. Tuesday evening’s game has also been postponed amid safety concerns.
Sports often can and should provide a respite from the drudgery of the boss on your back and the bills at home that need budgeting, but there are times for proper discretion in conducting a sporting event. A natural disaster nearby or impending severe weather situation, for typical and historic examples.
Or, in the year 2015, massive protests over the perceived treatment of a segment of society by its government and agents of that government. Some protests have been peaceful, some violent and all are worthy of rational, informed consideration before any condemnation. Or invalidation.
It’s invalidation that would have been on display inside Camden Yards had a pastoral game played in a pristine facility by wealthy people been allowed to go on while a concrete jungle spilled over with anger, sadness and frustration in its background. Baseball could have only sent a message of “We don’t care about your plight” had Monday’s game not been postponed only about 45 minutes before the scheduled first pitch. The same goes for Tuesday’s decision.
The Orioles would have come off as extremely tone deaf to the songs of agony of the very people the team purports to represent.
Luckily, commissioner Rob Manfred coincidentally was in town and the better angels of MLB’s nature took over. This came on the heels of a prominent member of the Orioles organization publicly recognizing that baseball’s importance is far inferior to what Americans need to be cognizant of on the streets of Baltimore and elsewhere right now.
Team COO and son of Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos, John Angelos, responded Saturday to a Baltimore radio personality’s tweets regarding the negative impact of protests. The tweets from the latter were of the reflexive variety that come whenever people who otherwise endorse constitutional rights get inconvenienced by others exercising theirs.
It's written in our Constitution In the first Amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble" I think a key word is 'peaceably."— Brett Hollander (@BrettHollander) April 26, 2015
Everyone should feel fortunate for our freedoms in this country, as written in our Constitution.... (1/4)— Brett Hollander (@BrettHollander) April 26, 2015
I'm by no means a legal scholar, so please understand that, but protests should not violate the basic freedoms of non-protestors. (2/4)— Brett Hollander (@BrettHollander) April 26, 2015
People of a community should be able to commute, commerce should happen & citizens who want to go to a ballgame should be able to go. (3/4)— Brett Hollander (@BrettHollander) April 26, 2015
And any really important message out of these protests is lost when the rest of the community is disrupted. (4/4)— Brett Hollander (@BrettHollander) April 26, 2015
Put another way: “Protest, but please do so only in a way that doesn’t make me uncomfortable.”
This all came without consideration that those very protests are about a violation of certain people’s rights and systematic impediments to that “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness” gas station T-shirt and bumper sticker stuff in the first place.
We feel so righteous as a nation when we look at that photo of Tiananmen Square. And yet: pic.twitter.com/S5P7YPfIxM— Catherynne Valente (@catvalente) April 26, 2015
@TheKingEvans this isn't called rioting with a riot hashtag pic.twitter.com/4HVm0dQufs— MsLyn Cain (@LynMCain) April 28, 2015
After all, won’t someone please think of the baseball games?
John Angelos thought of the games and intelligently recognized and considered a more panoramic scope. His following response was in a series of tweets pieced together here in paragraph form for space purposes.
“(My) greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
“The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.”
The same will still apply should the situation in the streets of Baltimore be similar or heightened Tuesday night. There are simple logistics of properly staffing Camden Yards with ample security for any baseball game against the need for as many police as possible elsewhere in the city, for one thing. But for another, baseball in Baltimore right now isn’t the proper entertainment deviation from run-of-the-mill annoyances of everyday life for many Americans who can otherwise afford to attend a baseball game in person or at least carve out three hours to watch one on TV.
There’s a greater problem exemplified right now amid the people of Baltimore but not unique to that city, a problem that deserves way more attention than can be given or explained here in a sports column. But it’s an attention everyone, baseball fan and otherwise, needs to give.
And if that’s at the comparatively minor expense of a baseball game or two or 10, so be it.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.