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Brewers-Pirates brawl: On 'respecting the game'

Yesterday's incident involving Carlos Gomez and Gerrit Cole was just another example of people taking the game too seriously and not respecting cultural differences.

Justin K. Aller

By now everyone is aware of the incident that happened in yesterday’s game, but I’ll give you a quick recap anyway. Carlos Gomez hit a pitch off Gerrit Cole, flipped his bat and started slowly jogging to first base before he realized it wasn’t a home run. Then he put on the afterburners and slid safely into third base at which point, Cole approached him and yelled something which included a certain profanity that only totally grown up people who respect the game use. This set Gomez off and then a number of other players got involved. Gomez, Travis Snider, and Big Bad Jerry Narron were all thrown out of the game. Later today there are sure to be one or more suspensions handed out and more than a few fines.

It was stupid and frustrating and there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides. Unfortunately a lot of people on Twitter, a bastion of civility and calm discourse if there ever was one, seem to be heaping the majority of blame (and name calling) on Carlos Gomez. You’ll even hear some TV personalities, especially on that one network that shall remain nameless, join that cause.

This isn’t an isolated incident and it’s not just Gomez that I see this happening to. For example, Yasiel Puig gets a lot of overbearing criticism for the way he plays, as well. I can only assume, based on what they’re being disparaged for and the words used to describe them, that if outright racism isn’t a large part of it, it’s at least a lack of cultural understanding, appreciation, and acceptance.

There are some parallels between yesterday’s incident and the kerfuffle between Gomez and Brian McCann last year. The strange thing is, their roles are basically reversed this time around, but people are still pointing the finger at Gomez. Last year Gomez stepped over the line, reacted poorly to something, and McCann responded inappropriately. This time, Cole stepped over the line, reacted poorly to something, and Gomez responded inappropriately. The difference is people treated McCann, a white player, as though he were the savior of baseball and now people are treating Gomez, a noticeably non-white player, as though he’s some kind of criminal. At best, it’s incredibly hypocritical and at worst, it’s racist.

Before anyone gets on their soapbox (you have to get your own because I won’t share mine), I’m not saying everyone upset with Carlos Gomez is racist. I myself am upset with him. He lost his temper yesterday, and even if he didn’t start the fight (and he didn’t,) he shouldn't have responded the way he did. I’m saying that racism plays a role here and to think otherwise is naive.

The multitudes on Twitter who decided that the word "thug" was an appropriate descriptor for Gomez are definitely racist. If they were to claim otherwise then that makes them painfully ignorant. Seriously, go search Twitter for "Carlos Gomez thug" and/or "Yasiel Puig thug" if you want to lose hope for humanity. That term is only ever applied to dark skinned athletes. It’s embarrassing to see people use it with impunity and it needs to stop.

The other thing that needs to stop is this whole "respect the game" war on celebration. Did you watch the World Baseball Classic last year? I did and I remember how the players from teams such as Venezuela, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic acted throughout the game. Everyone in the dugout jumped and screamed and cheered when their guys got hits and scored runs. It’s was awesome. It was fun. It wasn’t disrespectful. It was part of the game to them because it’s how they grew up playing it.

Why is it wrong when they do it in the major leagues? Some people would tell you that you can’t "show up" other players because it’s disrespectful. They'll tell you there’s a "right way to play the game." What they really mean is their way is the right way.

They’re wrong. They’re just so damned wrong on so many levels. There isn't a right way to play the game and the "American" way sure as hell isn't the only way. Clearly there are plenty of people that disagree and that makes me sad. I’d rather they perceive me as disrespecting their game if it means respecting other cultures, because where they see disrespect I see love. I see guys playing the game the way they learned to when they were kids. I see them having fun and I don’t see anything wrong with that.