Boston is a brilliant sporting city. Fenway Park, the wonderfully archaic home of the Red Sox, has baseball history seeping through its pores. The grand old place is perhaps not as beautiful as Lord’s cricket ground yet is equally breathtaking in its significance and importance for the game.
A welcome throwback in a modern world, though the events of last week saw Beantown dragged back into the dark ages. We are still in the infancy of the baseball season, yet the seething anger and hatred on show between the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles had all the intensity of a World Series cruncher. Some of it was great to see.
The longevity of the 162-game season ensures all the pumped up craziness is usually reserved to the business end of the campaign. The horrible racist abuse and fallout, however, has left a very bad taste in the mouth.
Ever since Manny Machado launched his studs perilously near to Dustin Pedroia’s recently restructured knee on April 21, bad blood has flowed. Two nights later Matt Barnes launched the ball at his head and was promptly banned for four games. The flames had been seriously fanned and last week saw more fireworks.
With Machado established as public enemy No1 in Boston, the home pitchers went for the kill again, this time Chris Sale throwing behind his legs. The Orioles star went nuts but some Red Sox fans, clearly drunk on the seething hatred, went too far the previous night.
Adam Jones, Baltimore’s five-time All-Star, said he was subjected to racial abuse from supporters. He claimed he was called a derogatory name before having peanuts thrown at him. The following night a man hurled a racist term at a Kenyan woman who’d just sung the national anthem.
He has since been banned for life. Boston does have unfortunate priors. The Red Sox didn’t add their first black player until 1959 – they were the final team to integrate after Jackie Robinson (pictured) opened the gate for African Americans – while accusations of bigotry followed the city around for years.
The greatest-ever home run hitter, Barry Bonds, refused to step out at Fenway, once telling the local newspaper: “It’s too racist for me and it ain’t changing.” To their credit, the Red Sox front office and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acted quickly in condemning the distasteful events.
“It was frustrating for me,” said Jones. “I’m a grown man with a family to raise, so I’m not just going to let nobody just sit there and berate me. I’m a grown man.”
Jones received an emotional standing ovation from the Boston fans on Tuesday, the majority clearly embarrassed and appalled from what transpired 24 hours previously. Pitcher Sale even held back to allow Jones a moment to soak everything in.
“I appreciate what the fans did,” he said. “I have never on the road gotten any ovations or anything like that, so it just caught me off guard a little bit.” The niceties didn’t last. You’d have thought Jones may get the benefit of doubt on Wednesday night when arguing with the umpire about some questionable calls while at bat.
Think again. He was ejected following a furious row. It was like a welcome throwback to baseball’s glory years. Fighting, fury, feuds, drama. Machedo dropped an astonishing tally of F-bombs post game on Tuesday, insisting he’d lost all respect for the Red Sox before threatening to ‘crush’ anyone who tries to hurt him again.
The abuse suffered by Jones, however, was horrible but isn’t simply a baseball problem. It’s representative of the multitude of ills which have infected modern American society. One stat though, makes intriguing reading. On opening day this year, there were only 62 African American players on roster.
Food for thought indeed.
The laughable arrogance of LaVar Ball unfortunately shows no signs of letting up. His son Lonzo may be gearing up for life as an NBA rookie, but after his debut shoe was priced at an astonishing $495, question marks surrounding his mad father remain.
To put that into context, over the last two years the most expensive Air Jordan’s have come in at $400. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all opted out of a deal following LaVar’s insistence of incorporating a licensing contract for his Big Baller Brand into what would have been a standard endorsement agreement.
“Ultimately, LaVar has put an insane amount of pressure on his son to perform in the NBA,” said Ken Wisnefski, CEO and founder of digital marketing leader WebiMax. “If he flops, his family’s brand falls apart.”
The ZO2 shoe has a ‘microfiber python texture’ in matte black and has a wonderful sounding ‘Delorean finish.’ No, I have no no idea what they’re talking about either. “Prada and Gucci is selling theirs for what they want,” Ball said. “Ours is better than that. It feels better.” Of course it does.
Lonzo Ball's 1st signature shoe by the BBB (Boutta Be Bankrupt) will cost $495. pic.twitter.com/oaJJ8ACcJD— NBA News (@NBABBGAMETIME) May 4, 2017
David Villa continues to buck the trend in MLS. The 35-year-old former Barcelona ace was NYCFC’s first ever signing in 2014 and three years on, he’s still there loving life. In fact, the Spaniard is so enamored with America he’s just signed on for another 12 months with his current deal expiring at the end of this season.
Yes, Villa is on $5 million a year and doesn’t want for anything in one of the most exciting cities on Earth. But, unlike some stars who are perceived to be only interested in chasing the MLS dollar, Villa has embraced it all.
He has scored five goals in seven matches this season and remains boss Patrick Vieira’s main man. Happiness on and oﬀ the pitch has been key.
“I’m so happy here in this city and at this club, I am fit and I can do things on the pitch – I’m not ready to go to the sidelines,“ said the World Cup winning forward. “That’s why continuing here and signing this contract was a really easy decision for me.”
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