Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Eye Black and Blue Jays

Welcome to the Route 30 Detour! US Route 30 intersects at I-95 in Philadelphia and goes from coast to coast, including passing through Pittsburgh and the home of Drexel University SMT student and blog contributor, Bryan Fyalkowski (@fyalkowski)...

I know the basics about Yunel Escobar. He had a few good seasons with the Atlanta Braves and is currently an average shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was on my keeper league fantasy team for a while. He was featured in a Sports Illustrated article a few years ago that I never read. I know the basics about Escobar, but unfortunately he does not know the basics of how his actions affect others, and that there are consequences for everything he does as a professional athlete.

A picture take by a fan during a game last week shows an up-close view of the writing on Escobar's eye black strips with the words "TU ERE" under his right eye and "MARICON" below his left. As the amateur photographer explained, the phrase, written in Spanish, can be translated to English as "You are a faggot" or "You are a pussy."

The phrase written on the eye black caught on camera.

The picture and explanation was released late Sunday night and by Monday had come to the attention of many bloggers and online sources. Upon the picture spreading across the internet like jelly on toast, the Blue Jays ensured the general public that actions would surely be taken via this statement by the team. On Tuesday, the Blue Jays met with MLB commissioner Bud Selig and decided to suspend Escobar three games without pay, which will end up costing him around $81,000. The money will be donated to You Can Play, a charity in Toronto that combats homophobia in sports. In addition, Escobar will have to complete a sensitivity program and participate in public outreach initiatives to promote tolerance. The MLB then released this statement in response to the suspension handed down by the team.

At 3:30, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, manager John Farrell and bench coach Luis Rivera joined Escobar and his translator at a press conference. On a side note, I am not sure who the translator was, nor do I care to look it up, but he had to be the worst translator in the history of translators. Back to the focus... The main message that Escobar projected was that he did not mean to offend anyone and the writing was not meant to be directed at anyone in particular, and did not mean for it to be misinterpreted by the gay community. He claimed the phrase is said all the time and is not meant to be offensive, and it surprised him when people took offense to it on the internet because he did not think it would cause any problems.

Apologetic Escobar on the left and bumbling translator on the left.

Escobar sincerely apologized to anybody who was offended by the writing on his eye black, and I believed him. Farrell said that it seemed out of character for Escobar compared to the way he acts normally, and I believed him. Escobar said he has gay friends who were not offended it, and I believed him. A problem that I had with Escobar and his reasoning, was that he had no reasoning. A few reporters asked why he wrote the phrase on his eye black and he gave ambiguous answers. He did not expect it to be interpreted the way it did, but he never specified the way he intended for it to be interpreted. Escobar said the word can be interpreted in different ways depending on how it is said.

Escobar was aware of the possible connotations of this phrase, and the thought never crossed his mind that it could offend anybody. If anything, Escobar seemed perturbed that it was interpreted the way it was and it was causing him some kind of harm. Escobar has been a professional baseball player for eight years and has been in the MLB for six, he must realize by now that his actions reflect on the general public and fans through the organization, athletes, coaches and everybody else involved. When Escobar does something, good or bad, it not only represents himself, but also those around him. In this case, he was completely unaware of his responsibility as a professional athlete and human being in society, which is very disappointing. Everything he does on and off the field is magnified.

This lies not only on the shoulders of Escobar, but also on his teammates and coaches that day who allowed him to take the field with that phrase on his eye black. When asked about the day of the writing in question, Farrell claimed that it was written very small and no one could tell what it said unless you looked him in the eye. Later on in the press conference, Farrell referenced other times when Escobar had written something such as "Let's go today" on his eye black that was uplifting for the team. Therefore, there was no reason to suspect the player would write something hurtful this particular time. So let me get this straight, when Escobar wrote something inspirational on his eye black, he was aware of it. But when he wrote something homophobic, it went completely ignored by the clubhouse. That is simply hard to believe. Escobar was asked about the reason why he would put words on his eye black if no one saw them and he dodged the question by giving a regurgitated answer.

However, nothing encompassed the entire situation better than the final words of the press conference, filtered through the translator "It's just a word." As a heterosexual, it did not offend me personally, but there is nothing Escobar or anyone could say to explain why what he did was acceptable. I feel for homosexual athletes who are afraid to be themselves among teammates because of a general acceptance of homophobia in the sporting world.

 Openly gay former NBA player John Amaechi.

Anthopoulos made a good point that something good can come out of this situation, such as greater awareness of a the problem. But it is still sad that an action such as this was the cause of the exploration for a better environment. Should Escobar have been suspended for more than three games? Possibly, but that is not necessarily the issue. Farrell denied that homophobia is a problem in MLB clubhouses, but I cannot be so sure. I can imagine that since sports is a reflection of society, it is an issue it will continue to be one as long as it remains an issue within society.

Enjoy your trip back to I-95 and I'll see you next week!

1 comment:

  1. Great job Bryan. I completely agree with your stance. Why even go there if you know the way that it could be interpreted? Doesn't make any sense to me. And I also agree with what you said about Farrell and his teammates. How did nobody else notice? Definitely would have liked to see a little more of an explanation on why it was done.