On Scott Boras and Patriotism

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Sports have long held the enviable position of being one of the few industries in America to seamlessly mix business with politics. Making this feat all the more impressive is the professional sports leagues gleefully flaunting this relationship so publicly without much pushback. There are American flags proudly sitting atop the stadiums. We stand for the national anthem. Some stand again in the same game for God Bless America. There are Memorial Day and Fourth of July fitted caps readily available at our favorite sporting gear stores and websites. And we’re constantly reminded of how sports have saved the collective American psyche time and time again. All of this happens without much pushback from the same people who can’t have a respectful conversation with anyone who holds a political viewpoint that is minimally different from their own.

These tenuous claims of patriotism from American professional sports leagues may be the best marketing campaign in this country’s history. It is a foolproof approach. What is more effective than equating the consumption of sports with civic duty especially in the midst of our country’s greatest challenges? In many ways, the appeal to patriotic identity serves as a “break glass in times of emergency” safety net. It stands as a tried and true call to action to bring back “normalcy” during the worst of times including a devastating global pandemic. The frame of patriotism allows those that stand the most to gain from a hasty reopening of professional sports a cover for their true intentions. It allows the powers that be to move in silence when necessary. And this is where we find Scott Boras.

In his New York Times opinion piece, Boras tugs at our red, white, and blue heartstrings. He refers to the call from FDR to Commissioner Landis to start the games up to lift the spirits of not only American citizens but the brave soldiers fighting in World War 2. Boras then recounts the crucial role baseball played in consoling the country after 9/11. The Mike Piazza home run against the Braves is an incredible moment in baseball history. George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch was an incredible show of strength for many. To be clear, these moments are important. Sports are an important part of the collective national identity. They are real-time events that can beautifully capture the spirit of our country. But the framing of the relationship between sports and national pride isn’t solely based on a virtuous commitment to identity.

It is also important to point out that these moments are all in response to geopolitical tragedies and not a biological catastrophe. Life isn’t currently at a standstill because of war or a heinous act of terrorism. Many of us remained largely confined to our homes because of a deadly virus. The conflict isn’t defined by geographical borders or opposing political philosophies. The virus isn’t overseeing test missile launches or imposing tariffs. It is silently ravaging communities, nursing homes, hospitals, school systems, employment, and basic social interactions with absolutely no regard for who it inhabits. COVID doesn’t care for nation-states and their silly squabbles.

And this is where Boras’ appeal to our patriotic spirit falls woefully short. Sure, some folks will use the fighting American spirit to boost the morale of those around them. That is more than fine. It is a totally different matter to compromise the health of thousands of people in the name of entertainment or national identity. One can make the case that entertainment is an essential business, but that would take a pretty significant leap in logic to arrive at that conclusion. Unfortunately, many places in our country aren’t in a position to protect their citizens well enough to give any certainty that another outbreak is limited. America hasn’t handled this as well as South Korea or Taiwan, two countries that were able to start their baseball seasons. So why resort to using a rallying cry that is more appropriate when humans are in conflict with other humans? Scott Boras answers this question:

However, we face a challenge in the coming weeks and months: How do we harmonize the concerns of health experts with the unwanted effects of those public health efforts? Experts believe we need isolation and social distancing, but that has led to lost jobs, increased stresses of every type and a diminishing of the social tapestry that binds and enhances our lives. After many weeks of following safer-at-home protocols, people are understandably restless and looking for an outlet.

Scott Boras

Brazenly flying in the face of medical experts feels like an expected response. Despite isolation and social distancing saving thousands upon thousands of lives, these measures are immediately minimized through the economic lens. Yes, the financial impact is devastating. As a freelance filmmaker who depends on the gig economy, this is a terrible experience. But everyone’s health is paramount at the moment. We should never lose sight of that. So, why do people like Boras choose to do so?

Simply put, it is more important for the power brokers of the game to restore their influence and gain. There is an emerging belief in certain sectors of the country that some people losing their lives so the economy can start up again is a sacrifice worth making. So the power brokers weaponize the lore of Americana to inspire many to take a significant health risk. Boras is manipulating the idea of the perceived American identity to benefit from that very narrative. We need baseball because he needs baseball. He doesn’t need it as a respite from death and destruction. He needs it to gain a semblance of power that the virus has neutered. His influence is severely limited if his industry is offline. His last gasp efforts are opinion pieces in the New York Times in an attempt to regain his bully pulpit.

Boras is like many other men in positions of power during the pandemic. They can’t see the trees for the forest because the details don’t really matter. What matters in their minds is returning to “business as usual” as soon as possible even if comes at the cost of more American lives. Unfortunately, this mindset is a core tenet of America’s true identity. One core belief is ensuring profit margins reign supreme in the face of any human crisis whether it’s enslavement, world wars, terrorism, or pandemics. And yes, this approach is within the rules of the economic game. In a vacuum, there isn’t anything wrong with trying to rekindle business. But we don’t live in a vacuum despite some wanting to apply that caveat when appropriate.

There hasn’t been a moment during this lockdown when I’ve been more confident that baseball will return than now. The steward of baseball economics has spoken. Baseball will make its return this year. It’s the American way.

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36 Comments

  1. DanGer

    Aren’t these the same people that tell athletes to “stick to basketball”? It’s an interesting double standard about who’s allowed to have an opinion and on what topic…

    I miss baseball as much as anyone but we’re talking a guys whose literal purpose is to manipulate people for someone else’s interest. Less talk from agents and politicians, more listening to doctors and epidemiologists.

  2. You’re a Looser Trader FotD

    Follow the money, as always. Good piece.

    Love the clowns above spouting nonsensical talking points. So predictable.

    • Randy

      Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

    • vc_11

      I’m going to follow the money, too….in baseball, in politics, and in the medical field….

  3. Mungo

    “There is an emerging belief in certain sectors of the country that some people losing their lives so the economy can start up again is a sacrifice worth making.”
    —————

    Enjoyed the read Randy as I do like to see varying opinions, although that sentence above stuck out. When has our economy ever operated under the idea that we will close down and stay closed to save every single life? They’re nice words, and they allow the person saying them to always claim the moral high ground without actually engaging on the more complex issues. We wouldn’t even have an economy, or even a country, if we operated under that principle. The country shut down to prevent an overloading of the hospital system. That was achieved in part thanks to the shut down, and also thanks in part to faulty data. Post the shutdown, we now have an issue with goal posts moving. Politicians like to lie, and those who strongly support political parties liked to be lied to. It’s Yankees vs. Red Sox. Fine when applied to the sports world, although quite disappointing when people are trying to capitalize on the deaths of many to support their political views. BOTH sides are guilty of this. This is a case where we all should wrap ourselves in the flag and come together to do the right thing. Unfortunately, on social media, that’s not happening at all. It’s extreme political division. People living in their echo chambers.

    As for the overall theme of your article, meaning Boras, we agree. This is not similar to WWII. Boras’ opinion piece is about money. He represents the agent’s point of view. The owners’ offer today is also about money. The players’ response to that proposal is also about money. All three sides will not be able to claim any moral high ground here because they’re all fighting for the same thing: money.

    • Randy

      The majority of this comment is rooted in a contention I didn’t make. I will say that I have zero interest in claiming “the moral high ground.” There is no such thing. I do care more about people being healthy and living over the short term health of the economy. If that is regarded as not engaging in “more complex issues” than so be it. I am more than comfortable with that position.

      • Mungo

        Understood, but the pull quote from your commentary was a jumping off point on a tangentially related topic as it is something that’s being discussed, often poorly, in social media circles. It wasn’t necessarily directed at you as I don’t know your thoughts beyond what your wrote, and it is why I also noted I agreed with your overall theme regarding Boras.

        BTW I’ve noticed Derek and Bobby have been absent lately. I’m hoping they’re just on a short blog sabbatical while we await the return of baseball, and it’s not related to the virus. If it’s the latter, get well soon, if it’s the former, then hopefully MLB can find a way to get well soon. I’d much rather discuss what a significant contribution Tyler Wade will be making to the Yankees in 2020!

        • Randy

          I understand. My feelings are the death rate in the country is rising and the country has largely handled this poorly and until there is some control of it where the numbers slow down everything is a strong second to people’s well being. I don’t have an overly complicated view on this. I get the need and desire to open the economy up, but the country has largely made it difficult for itself to do so with the handling of the pandemic. I’m glad we agree on Boras.

          It’s not related to the virus. Thankfully, they are healthy. They have some work related stuff they’ve had to focus on and there just isn’t much to write about without being repetitive. They should be on the podcast this week.

          Who is Tyler Wade? Sounds like he sucks.

  4. Twifffy

    This is supposed to be a blog about baseball. Please stay out if politics.

    The data shows that between 99.95 and 99.99 of people below the age of 55 without pre existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, etc. will not have medical issues when he/she contact the disease. Yet governments around the world including national, state and local levels are deciding to quarantine 100% of the population for extended periods of time. We are beyond “flattening the curve”. We need to safely go on with our lives. The elderly and compromised need to remain safe and be cared for but life and baseball must go on.

    • Randy

      It’s a post about Scott Boras who invoked geopolitical events to talk about sports coming back so I’ll write about what I want to write about when I want to write about it. Maybe Scott Boras should stay out of politics. And maybe your comment shouldn’t include a bunch of selective data and then talk about…politics.

      • Twifffy

        You are allowed to have your opinions and so are others. My facts are not selective data. It is a rational set of facts that you obviously want to disregard regardless of their applicability to the article you wrote. Write what you want to write about when you want to. Perhaps you should write them with knowledge and wisdom or find a co-writer that can add those elements for you.

        • Randy

          Lmao. I’ll ask you to be my fact-checker from here on out Twiffy. The quality will jump through the roof.

          • Twifffy

            Now that’s pretty funny. Good one Randy.

        • The Original Drew

          Sounds like you’re a pretty sensitive guy Twiffy. Be safe out there. They fact based options are VERY scary!

    • There are over a 100 million people in this country who are over 55 or have pre-existing conditions, and most of them live with people under 55. If these people “go on with their lives”, the people over 55 will not be safe.

  5. Yankee fan

    Thanks for this – your piece says it all and it’s written beautiful.

  6. This Year

    Well written, but there are many assumptions you are taking as certainties about the benefit of shutdowns and quarantining healthy people (which to my knowledge has never been done before). Other countries (e.g., Sweden) have adopted different approaches without destroying their economy, and their deaths per million are much better than the UK, France and Italy– and not that much more than the US, Germany is resuming football, reopened GA is not facing the apocalypse (despite the media guaranteeing it, cases are down since reopening), etc.

    This virus overwhelmingly affects older persons (including me). A very rational approach would be to have us folks continue to protect ourselves, but have the younger workforce resume work, including baseball (albeit in modified form). We now know that there is a strong possibility that millions of folks have had the virus and remained asymptomatic or had mild, cold-like symptoms. So we may be closer to “herd immunity” than we suspect.

    Finally, this popular canard that we are trading people for dollars is BS. Based on historical data (as opposed to wacko models based on unstated assumptions), hundreds of thousands of people will die because of this shutdown. Not only are suicide and domestic abuse cases skyrocketing, so will addiction, and ultimately starvation (per the UN) by hundreds of thousands of people and children in developing countries due to the disruption of the fragile supply chain. No, not dollars vs. people. People vs people And the shutdown will undoubtedly kill many, many more.

    I lived through the Hong Kong Flu in 1969, the Summer of Love, Woodstock, etc. That disease also mostly targeted the elderly– and 100,000 Americans died. Think of that. A flu which killed more than this virus (so far– don’t get me started on the haphazard coding of deaths from the virus) did not cause a single disruption anywhere in the US– no shut down of the economy, no loss of jobs, no banning of large gatherings (I mean Woodstock!)– nothing. And I barely remember it (I was 17), and I certainly do not recall any changes to lifestyle. The lesson I take from this is that the fact of deadly viruses has not changed (and probably never will). Instead, it is the sociological/psychological reality which has changed. We expect to be protected from anything and everything, a product of social media and the internet, no doubt. And what about the Swine Flu in 09 which all of you lived through. No, it did not kill as many (12,000 plus in US if numbers are accurate), but it targeted KIDS more. Some schools were closed when an outbreak occurred, but in a rational, controlled way. And, hell, the ordinary flu killed over 60,000 Americans in 2018-19. So, yes, some perspective is in order.

    So, I agree with the loathsome Mr. Boras. Time to start the engine again in a sensible, responsible manner– and not just baseball.

    • Randy

      I personally know about ten people who have the virus. All of them, but two were 40 and under and were severely sick. And through degrees of separation, I know people 40 and younger that died and were also intubated. There are multiple players and family members of players who have underlying health conditions. A player like David Dahl who doesn’t have a spleen is at great risk if he contracts the virus. Your framing is extremely limited for this discussion. Those other leagues are able to re-start because their countries have robust testing and tracing measures in place. Their national infection, hospital and death rates declined. Ours is the complete opposite. It would help to provide the full context when referencing other countries.

      And Sweden has yet to prove their herd immunity approach is working. That’s great their economy is doing fine, but it’s at the expense of people dying which is the whole point of this post. People’s livelihoods and lives should not be compromised so the economy keeps humming right along. That feels inhumane to me.

      I’m not going to get into the rest of the stuff you mentioned. I’ll trust the science not this idea that social media and the internet altered everyone’s reality as we have a civil discussion on the internet.

      • This Year

        I know you are sincere and believe you are “following the science”. But the science is just not as clear as you seem to believe. And the historical data through committing economic suicide indicates the loss of life from the shut down will dwarf those from the virus itself. I am very sorry for the folks you know who were afflicted. Just an honest disagreement, and being vulnerable, I have had both the time and motivation to research this subject extensively, and although I am scared as sh*t to come down with this nasty bug myself, it is my opinion we have to think of the people whose lives will be destroyed and ended worldwide due to the total disruption of the supply networks.

        That said, love your blog and am very appreciative you guys took the baton from RAB– and very, very well. Here’s looking forward to the time you can write just about baseball and the Yankees again. Maybe I will share a story or two from the “old days” in the comments as appropriate.

        • Randy

          I’m fully aware that they are learning more and more about this every day so anyone claiming they fully understand what is going on here would be wrong. My general point is humanity shouldn’t come at the cost of the economy. The players themselves are expressing concern. And the funny part is last week Boras wanted everyone to return to work and today he’s telling the player’s union to reject the owners proposal. So is this about helping the country or guaranteeing the biggest cut of player salaries?

          And thank you very much for the compliment. Thank you for supporting us. Share your stories whenever you like. We enjoy those things around here.

    • Randy

      And to be clear, I am not accusing you personally of being inhumane. I don’t want you to take that the wrong way.

  7. I back you 100%, Randy. How can the country get back on course when the leadership in this country is clueless to the events going on in their own house.
    Money over lives.
    Nobody wants baseball back more then me but not at the sacrifice of the people.
    Boras is the perfect example of GREED. Always was, always will be. ❤️⚾️

    • Randy

      Well said. Appreciate it.

    • vc_11

      There’s a lot of greed in places that we are taking for granted right now as well.

  8. Coronaveddardus

    I agree with Scott, Randy. We need to get this economy up and roaring again. They can play at the Stadium at 40% fan capacity, test the players, coaches and staff regularly and the ratings will be through the roof. There’s no reason they can’t get the regular season up and running by 7/1. Scrap the ASG and just play through July, Aug and Sep. Play some DHs to get 100 games in. Use June as Spring Training. One of the best quotes I’ve seen during this pandemic is “There are more important things than living.” And I would add to that, and baseball is one of them. Baseball brought us back from the Great Depression, WWII, 9/11 and now this.

    • Randy

      They aren’t getting 40% capacity in July in New York or California.

      • DJ LeMeddardhieu

        Well then you get what you can. 25%, 10% or 0% if need be. It’d be nice to have some fans there but playing the games is the most important thing.

      • mikenyc2007

        Hey Randy – appreciate the effort – but there is a big country out there that is looking at NY and seeing a serious local issue, and looking at their community and seeing no problem worth losing a job with a subjective timeline for a return, and no objective way of knowing when it will get turned off again…. and for how long next time.

        Whatever his true motivation, he makes a fair point – a summertime distraction of baseball is terrific medicine for everyone stuck watching ill-informed politicians or talking heads pontificate about “restarting” an economy which they themselves put on life support.

        I would rather watch a bunch of athletes play baseball and be distracted for 3+ hours a night (and have something to talk about except unemployment and death), than listen to a bunch of 70+ year old hacks tell me what is best for my future. For those hacks continually to downplay the fact that 99% of healthy people will remain healthy even if they get Covid is making it impossible for us to make objective decisions.

        Unlike you, and for whatever reason, I trust a billion dollar industry to make smart decisions about its product, especially when they hold all the cards….. unlike the government, which has s*it the bed both here in China, the US, and all around the world…. and now expect private industry to bail them out.

        • Randy

          Yeah, this is totally missing the core problem that this is a public health issue. I only trust a billion dollar industry to view things to ensure they remain a billion dollar industry. Revenues have nothing to do with being responsible. It’s all about generating more revenue in as little time as possible. That isn’t a qualification or measure of making responsible decisions that truly put the welfare of people’s well being at the forefront. And they’re seeking advice from public health experts who they themselves don’t know everything about what we’re dealing with. That has been pretty clear. They’re obviously working hard to learn about it but we’re nowhere near knowing the full scope. I would much rather them say look we don’t want to lose our money so we want to open up shop instead of feigning like they care about distractions.

          I also have no idea what you’re talking about in regards to a “local issue.” There are over 70,000 deaths countrywide with an insane number of positive tests. This isn’t solely a NYC issue. In fact, NYC is on the downturn.

          And thanks for appreciating my effort.

          • mikenyc2007

            Hey Randy – thanks for the response – despite the scope of Coivd, if this happened in Kansas City, and not NYC, there is no doubt the country would have a totally different response to the issue. That’s neither good nor bad, just my opinion, as most of the country has had nowhere the problems of the NYC area.

            The deaths are not to the extraordinary level they are in the NY area, a positive test is not consequential excepts for a very small part of our population, yet the impact to everyone’s daily lives are monumental.

            I think, to bring it back to Boras, that we all need to push the envelop to not let circumstances dictate the issue, but dictate the circumstances where the issue will apply.

            In this case, if we can start the ball rolling in a controlled environment, with the direct benefits of commerce and the ancillary benefits of everything that fandom offers, its something which needs to be pushed by folks to at least bring attention to the issue… sitting back, where nothing is going to change in either the near or far future, doesnt seem to be a good plan for any business or country.

          • Randy

            No problem. Thank you for reading.

            I am not sure I agree with your assessment while the country approaches 100,000 deaths. The reality is the country hasn’t handled this well at all and we’re still trending in the wrong direction nationwide. The death rate is, fortunately, dropping in NYC, while rising in other places. This is a severe situation and no one has been able to provide all the necessary precautions to stem it. This has even hit the White House which should be well insulated from this given all of the factors involved. What if players contract the virus? Are we going to say it’s not a concern because it’s in Minnesota or St. Louis as opposed to New York?

            And I didn’t mention sitting back. I’ve said multiple times they should play when appropriate. I’m all for being prepared. I want them to play, but I want them to do so safely and I don’t need the patriotic rallying cry. It’s cheap and unnecessary. This all feels rushed so teams can recover profits as quickly as possible. That’s why they’re offering revenue sharing and turning their back on the deal with the players. I would prefer more transparency and not questionable framing.

        • Rob

          People would love a distraction, but we are in a pandemic and people will die if baseball starts without safeguards that we currently don’t possess. If you wouldn’t give up your life or those of your loved ones, don’t give up the lives of others. And with a 1% mortality rate, a highly-transmissible virus in a country with 300 million people translates to 3 million deaths.

  9. Rob

    Well said, Randy. Excellent writing.

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