Can’t I Just Watch Baseball?

W.J. Astore

Yesterday was opening day for the Boston Red Sox, my hometown team, with lots of hoopla, a gigantic American flag, the National Anthem and God Bless America, all the trappings of feel-good patriotism. Nothing unusual here. Except there were two ceremonies in honor of the brave defenders of Ukraine, with cameras cutting to Ukrainian flags in the crowd. Two months ago, most Americans couldn’t have cared less about Ukraine, if they’d even heard of it or could place it on a map. Now we’re all on the same team, rooting for them to win, as if they’re all-Americans in war.

The first ceremony was a moment of silence for those suffering from the Ukraine war. Ukrainians were mentioned; Russians weren’t. (I guess Russians aren’t suffering from the war.) The second ceremony marked a long trip to America for a Ukrainian refugee, a celebration, I suppose, of America’s willingness to let in a few refugees from that war. There’s nothing wrong with this, but what does it have to do with baseball? Why is it being celebrated on opening day at Fenway Park?

There is no place for such brazenly political ceremonies at a baseball game. It’s all emotional manipulation and state propaganda. We are all supposed to love plucky Ukraine now and hate perfidious Russia. Even Russians who run longstanding restaurants in Boston have had to explain that they don’t support Putin and his war. If they stay silent, they run the risk of being boycotted because they obviously must be Putin puppets.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to send more and more weaponry to Ukraine, even as we’re encouraged to say silent prayers for that war-torn country. Weapons as peacemakers: it’s a uniquely American sport, the winners being companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, providers of missiles to the world.

You know that old song, “Take me out to the ball game”? When did Ukraine become the home team, and why am I being so manipulated to root for them? Can’t I just forget about war for a few hours and root for the Red Sox?

Even on Jackie Robinson Day in Boston, the war in Ukraine intruded on the Opening Day ceremonies (Jackie wore #42, which is why all players are wearing that number)

29 thoughts on “Can’t I Just Watch Baseball?

  1. I suppose this will become a feature across MLB this year; can’t wait to see what the NFL does later this year (assuming the war is still underway), as it is master of image manipulation – perhaps all teams wearing Ukrainian flags on their jerseys? Team colors all becoming blue and yellow?

    Sooner or later (and I think sooner) the Russians are going to “escalate” by stopping the flow of weapons into Ukraine. What will it be then? Singing the Ukrainian national anthem as NATIO undertakes a kinetic response (actual armed conflict with Russia)? If we live that long after that point.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Signs & Wonders…! First Respect for #42 he didn’t ask for you, or care if you liked him just that you respected him as a man. Secondly I’m always rooting for the Underdog so no big deal all the pro- Ukrainian hoopla. I for one wish that instead of Ladder, Tower, Rescue, & Engine Companies that I toiled for in my Career I was a Worker for Raytheon, Electric Boat, GE, Lockheed Martin, Grumman Corporation– you get the picture then maybe I’d be Rich too… I tell you you can’t get rich in the Fire Suppression business either. Maybe like me you should just get encapsulated updates of the Game as I do on my Comp., or consider Radio as I’ve been doing these past couple Seasons. That’s all I got!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, I suppose I could close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and pretend it’s not happening. I’m not sure that’s a “solution,” though.


  3. On a different subject, I had to laugh at this headline at NBC: “Biden hits the road, leaving his progressive agenda behind.”
    “Gone from the president’s remarks recently have been top issues among the Democratic base, including immigration, student debt and voting rights, with the economy taking center stage instead.”

    As if Biden ever had a “progressive agenda”! HA HA HA. Biden can’t even secure his base. Democrats are heading toward an epic thumping this fall.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And, for the animal activists among us, Uncle Joe has lifted a long-time ban on the import of trophy elephant parts. This, when elephant populations are down 30% in recent years.

      Like so many of his predecessors, every day, he finds a way to be worse.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I thought only prehistoric North American Wooly Mammoth Ivory that’s been preserved in the permafrost for thousands of years in the frozen North with Tusks that weighed as much as 200 pounds each was allowed to be carved? Of which I proudly own a piece.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Apparently not. The notification I got from an animal conservation group said, “elephant parts,” and I’d assume that primarily means ivory. Don’t think there’s a market for elephant tails, for instance.

          Killing a sentient, communal animal just for a trophy….takes an unimaginable degree of evil.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve answered your own questions, which I suppose makes them rhetorical. I’ll still pipe up.

    For dramatic tension, storytelling works best when an antagonist/villain is present. Sometimes that’s a person or entity, other times it’s a reified concept such as fate. Professional wrestling figured out how to develop good guys to root for and bad guys to root against. In geopolitics this time around, Ukraine is the good guy, Russia/Putin the perennial bad guy. Much as anyone likes to root for the good guy, the human psyche probably responds more viscerally to hating on bad guys. So we’re better defined by our hates, which is a form of negative identity that has powered the American scene since the founding. The “other” we are instructed to hate shifts around periodically, but there’s always a basket of deplorables or supervillain offered up for sacrifice to our unearned, inflated righteousness. Nothing new here other than the sophistication of the bogus messaging.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m not sure it’s “sophistication,” Brutus. More like saturation of the message. And saturation is being combined with censorship of opposing viewpoints. Not only “opposing” viewpoints, but critical ones. Anyone critical of the prevailing narrative is subject to potential censorship.

      I haven’t really heard anyone defending Putin’s decision to invade, for example. But if you point out that Ukraine and the USA may have even limited culpability, and that war crimes aren’t exclusive to Russia, you risk harsh condemnation followed by censorship.

      Far easier to append a Ukrainian flag to your Twitter and Facebook profile and cheer for the “good guy.”

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I see that Representative Ilhan Omar is pushing for the U.S. to join the International Criminal Court, so as to have more leverage to punish Russian war crimes. She openly points out U.S. hypocrisy in that regard. Betting she won’t get very far…

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Perfectly happy to substitute ubiquity, brazenness, or saturation for sophistication. They all apply. I chose sophistication only because insight into what works best through mass media has been refined significantly. We never before had social media algorithms that take on lives of their own.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. [Though I may have already stated the following] In an interview (“Chomsky: Trump is a Distraction, Used by the Deep State to ‘Systematically Destroy’ America,” The Free Thought Project, July 20, 2017), Noam Chomsky noted:

    “… Take a look at the focus in Çongress. It’s one of the few decent things Trump has been doing. So maybe members of his transition team contacted the Russians. Is that a bad thing? Recent ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, had a blog where he pointed out that, ‘It’s exactly what you should be doing. It’s the job of ambassadors and diplomats coming in. There are serious problems and tensions you want to talk over to see if there’s anything you can do about them. Instead of just building up force and violence.’ That’s what the democrats are focusing on, and meanwhile all these other things are going on and they’re not saying anything about them.”

    Chomsky had also emphasized that, “While everything is focusing on that, the Paul Ryan republicans, who are, in my view, the most dangerous and savage group in the country, are busy implementing programs that they have been talking quietly about for years. Very savage programs, which have very simple principles. One, be sure to offer to the rich and powerful gifts beyond the dreams of avarice, and [two], kick everyone else in the face. And it’s going on step by step right behind the [Russiagate] bluster.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In England, the propaganda system was based on the need for a member of the armed forces to bring the ball onto the pitch for any major sporting events.

      I presume this was meant to help us to forget the lies surrounding the illegal invasion of Iraq, and focus on ‘getting behind our boys’.


  6. Speaking of the politicization of sporting events in the United States, I remember reading once about the time President Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur (the only West Point cadet ever to have his mother attend the academy with him) for insubordination during the United Nations sponsored “police action” in Korea. Seeking to make political hay out of the situation, the Republicans in Congress outdid themselves weeping and wailing, gnashing their teeth and rending their hair-shirt garments, condemning President Truman for “disrespecting” the monumentally egotistical military “hero.”

    Relishing the part of injured innocent, MacArthur toured the country, showing up at baseball games, endlessly repeating his trademark “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” speech. President Truman, for his part, kept silent while MacArthur went on loudly not dying and not fading away until at one baseball game a leather-lunged fan up in the cheap seats yelled out: “Hey, Mac. How’s Harry Truman?” The crowed roared with laughter and MacArthur didn’t interrupt or postpone the start of any more baseball games with his narcissistic performances.

    I don’t know if the American people have that same iconoclastic spirit in them any more, but I find a (barely discernible) consolation in the thought that perhaps, just perhaps, a daring soul with two-brain cells and an ounce of integrity will show up at one these masturbatory, virtue-signalling orgies with a blue and yellow flag prominently featuring a Nazi swastika. You know, just to hint at the notion of more than one side to every coin, so to speak.


    1. The preceding comment of mine owes a not-insignificant debt to Patrick Lawrence of Consortium News (April 16, 2022) who wrote of
      “The Great Acquiescence — Glory to Ukraine”
      . This worthy analysis depends in part upon a literary treatment of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in the context of a paraphrase from Christian dogma — especially heard at Easter — which needs no explanation from a religiously disinterested person like myself. Anyway, the essay begins as follows:

      Americans don’t merely acquiesce to the imperium’s wars, interventions, collective punishments and assorted other deprivations. They actively embrace them.

      The other day I ventured forth from my remote village to a lively market town called Great Barrington to shop for Easter lunch — spring lamb, a decent bottle of Bourgogne. Easter is much marked in my household, one of the few feasts we allow ourselves, and it is a reminder this year of a truth that could scarcely be more pertinent to our shared circumstances: After all our small and large crucifixions, there is new life to come.

      Great Barrington lies in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, a fashionable little burg dense — as you can tell simply by walking around in it — with righteous liberals. No place, you remind yourself, is perfect.

      And there along the streets and avenues as I arrived were what I had anticipated: Ukrainian flags hanging off front porches, in shop windows, on flagpoles just below the Stars and Stripes. Somebody has painted the bit of board displaying their house number in the blue and yellow we all now recognize. Father, forgive them, I thought, for they know not what blood-soaked horrors and hate-filled killers they enthusiastically endorse [emphasis added].

      Not in my lifetime have Americans, purporting to be thoughtful, intelligent people, been so wide-eyed, so stupefied as those who are pretending to lead them and to inform them by seeking to bury them in ignorance.

      [end quoted excerpt]

      From what little I know of Russians — the people, customs, economy, and government — a majority of them, including their President Vladimir Putin, profess an adherence to the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. Speaking of Nazis who have historically — and now currently in Ukraine — persecuted Russians as untermenschen (sub humans) President Putin has said: “It’s God’s job to forgive them. It’s my job to send them to Him.” I guess we shall now see which will prevail: US/UK/NATO/EU-sponsored Nazism or Russian Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Something tells me that the Russians have the deeper wellspring of national memory and purpose.


      1. Thanks for the link, Mike. I’m familiar with Great Barrington. Sounds about right. I like the line about searching for the perfect brand of olive oil.


  7. No baseball relief yet, Bill

    “The West Needs WWIII” – Martin Armstrong Warns “There’s No Return To Normal Here”
    Legendary financial and geopolitical cycle analyst Martin Armstrong thinks the New World Order’s so-called “Great Reset” plan for humanity now needs war to try and make it work.

    “What they are trying to do is deliberately poke the bear…”

    “They are increasing the pressure on just about everything under the sun. The West needs World War III. They just need it. The real problem here is they went to negative interest rates in 2014 in Europe. They have been unable to stimulate the economy, and Keynesian economics have completely failed…

    I would say this is mismanagement of government on a global scale. The problem is that central banks have no control over the economy.

    Add to this, this type of inflation is substantially different than a speculative boom. This inflation is based upon shortages. These morons with covid… with lockdowns, ended up destroying the supply chains…

    Things that are there, I buy extra of because next time it might be gone. So, everybody is increasing their hoarding…………………..


  8. From past posts, Elijah J Magnier writes an intro to his considered perspectives on International conflicts, especially in the Middle East, but a paid subscription is needed to read the whole article.
    It appears he makes an exception in this extensive chronicle of Russian and US/Israeli violations of International Law as represented by the United Nations Charter.
    The title is somewhat misleading since he chronicles more US/Israeli violations than Russian violations except to imply Russia is following the Western lead and example.

    ‘What gives Russia the right to occupy Ukraine or any other country?’

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bill – short answer to your rhetorically titled post: “No… no you can’t”. Team-based sporting events are WAY too-easy of a target for any propagandist worth their salt in the profession to pass-up, especially in a militarism-embracing culture like ours (as you and others have so aptly written-of). Anthropologically speaking, I would suspect it’s non-controversial to draw a strong comparison between the tribal behavior of early man (ie; group hunting and group-action against predators and enemy-tribes) and modern team-based sporting events, in fact I’m undoubtedly being somewhat sophomoric by even bothering to bring it up. The group effort to vanquish a foe, and the territoriality and violence involved (esp w/football), even the special dress (uniforms) separating the warriors of our tribe from us non-warriors — all pretty obviously harken-back to pre-history days when man’s early ancestors left the jungles and moved to the savannas and plains of east Africa ‘X’ millions of years ago. Those tribal behaviors are genetically encoded in the primitive parts of our brains (our so-called ‘reptilian brain’), always ‘waiting to take-over’ when we relax our higher cognitive functions, such as viewing movies, TV, or sporting events. That’s an ideal time for opinion manipulators to ply their trade and subtlety (or less-so, as-in the examples you’ve cited) implant their message when our ‘guard is down’, making a positive association between a relatively benign activity like baseball and a deadly violent activity like military conflict. (Reminiscent of the soft-term ‘war games’ instead of the more accurate but thought-provoking ‘war rehearsal’ ?)
    I’m no authority on this idea, and I’m sure there is plenty of literature out there that expresses this far more accurately and more extensively, but I believe the basic concept is true and is a major part of the explanation for these displays linking military ‘patriotism’ to sporting events.

    Liked by 2 people

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