Escobar accepts Blue Jays' suspension but still may not get it: Griffin
The Jays pre-empted any move by major-league baseball in suspending their own shortstop Yunel Escobar for three games without pay for his disappointingly homophobic actions in the printed message written on his paste-on eye strips on Saturday, during a game against the Red Sox. Written in Spanish, in block letters, obviously with a Sharpie, the message read "You are a faggot." Yunel said his intentions were not hompophobic.
Three games may not have been enough, but the fact that the punishment was issued by the team, not the league improves any local perception that justice has been served. The team didn;t wait for the league to act and then didn't ponder an appeal. Justice was meted out swiftly. That being said, Escobar just doesn't get it and neither do any of his Jays' teammates who may have been, no, make that had to be close enough to read the hurtful message written under his eyes and they laughed, or ignored it. Teammates are as guilty.
The game will surely move forward. The Jays will move forward. This controversy will fade into the mists of time. The suspension without pay that amounts to about $92,000 will be forwarded to two organization, You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Escobar, according to a Jays press release sent out just before the 3:30 p.m. press conference, will participate in an outreach initiative to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation. His participation will be conducted in consultation with all parties involved. Escobar will also participate in a sensitivity training program in accordance with the Jays and Major League Baseball.
But it's not just Escobar and it's not just the Jays. It's every clubhouse in major-league baseball that has the same problem. Maybe it's even any locker room or clubhouse in any of the major pro sports. These statements should come as a surprise to no one.
Consider the weekend's 24 hour sequence of events. On Saturday, Escobar made his horrible lapse in judgment. Then just one day later, as is the custom every year with every team, it was time for rookie initiation, which is an annual event staged on the travel day of the final road trip for every team. The point is to make the first-year players wear ballet dancer outfits, Wizard of Oz garb, cowboys, sugar-plum fairies, super-heroes, anything that would tend to embarrass, humiliate and make the kid feel less than a real man.
When this happens, everyone laughs, some of us uncomfortably. We in the media play along. Photographers take myriad shots for the paper and online, TV cameras record the long walk to the team bus for kids made to feel effeminate -- the point. They wear their colourful outfits through airports and into the city to which they are traveling, mingling with the public all the way to the team hotel.
What's the difference between that homophobia and what Escobar did. Now Escobar is being suspended for three games without pay, while everyone else is still having a good chuckle about the rookie hazing. Maybe there has been a flicker of recognition linking the two in some minds. Consider that on Sunday night there was a Tweet by Jays' catcher J.P. Arencibia that included a posed team photo of the rookies, glitter, glamour and all. By Monday afternoon, the Tweet and the photo had been taken down. Coincidence?
If you were to pass through any major-league locker room on any day, either at home or on the road, in fact in any of the Big Four sports, you might get used to the clearly homophobic references and innuendoes, the politically incorrect language, the lighthearetd barbs and the sophomoric humour, some of it funny, most of it not, but there has to be a reason why even in this seemingly enlightened day and age with same-sex marriages in many countries and states, with politicans and actors openly declaring their sexual orientation, that team sports in North America is the last bastion of the macho male.
The Escobar incident reminds me in a way of the 50-game suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs that keep popping up accompanied by much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. There are two ways of looking at failed drug tests. One is that the MLB program is not working, that PEDs are still a problem. The other is that there are young impressionable players watching the druggies and that if even 10, or 20, or 100, or even one learns a lesson from the failures of Bartolo Colon, Melky Cabrera or Macus Stroman, that past failures have helped future understanding. The conclusion is the game is moving forward, away from the steroid era.
It's much the same with baseball's apparently ingrained homophobia and the Escobar suspension. One way of looking at it is that the game never changes and it will always be an issue. The other is that there are young players watching the Escobar incident and that if even 10, or 20, or 100 or even one learns a lesson from Yunel's failure that failure has helped the future understanding. The conclusion is game is moving forward.
That being said, this incident does not mean Escobar must be traded by the Jays. In fact it may be even better to have him still inside the clubhouse as a reminder. Maybe on the final weekend, the Jays on Fan Appreciation Day could invite the local GLAAD executive and members out for the final game and have their chapter president throw the ceremonial first pitch to Escobar and maybe have a giant cheque presentation by Yunel to the two organizations. Maybe next year, the Jays could sponsor their own float in the Pride Parade.
In the meantime, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and feel free to cheer for the Strawman to find a brain. The game and Escobar will survive.