There’s An App For That…

These days, there is an app for just about everything.  And if there is no app available, there is probably a database on the web somewhere containing finely sliced-and-diced information about anything.  A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned in passing the number of players on baseball’s Injured List – – formerly the Disabled List but that has become a politically incorrect term in 2021 – – and what it costs baseball teams in terms of salary to maintain those players on the roster.  That got a response from “the reader in Houston” who provided me with a link that gives you every player on the IL, how long he has been there and how much he has made on his contract while there.  Of course, there is such a database out there – – and doubly of course, the reader in Houston knows exactly where it is.

MLB began its season on 1 April; so, on 1 May I went to the database and found the following:

  • 191 players have been listed – or are still listed – on the IL.
  • 129 of those players are pitchers.
  • The total number of “player-days” accumulated on the IL is 4247.
  • The total salary collected by those 191 players is – rounded off – $80.5M.
  • The player who earned the most while on the IL is Justin Verlander who earned $5.85M.

The season will run for 6 months; I will try to remember to check that database on the first of every month just for the halibut…

A lead story in today’s sports section of the Washington Post indicates that the IOC is moving ahead confidently to stage the Olympic Games in Tokyo starting in about 10 weeks.  Over the weekend, they announced updated plans for staging the games using typically bold and optimistic language regarding the “promise to ensure the safety of the athletes taking part but also of the Japanese public during a global pandemic.”  If that is not sufficiently uplifting, here is another part of the IOC announcement:

“The Japanese people have demonstrated their perseverance throughout history and it’s only because of this ability of the Japanese people to overcome adversity that these Olympic Games under these very difficult circumstances are possible.”

I hope the IOC is right and that the Games go off as scheduled with no “COVID Consequences”.  At the same time, I recognize that the coronavirus has shown its own ability to “persevere” and to continue to spread even under circumstances where medical science and political leaders have tried to squash it.  I am in a position where I will just wait and see how all this unfolds.

However, there was a story from a week or so ago related to the IOC that was not nearly as positive or as uplifting as this one.  Olympic officials announced that “Rule 50” which condemns any form of “demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda” in Olympic venues will be enforced.  Athletes who decide to do something as outrageous as “take a knee” or possibly to “raise a fist” will be punished.  Such demonstrations are to be banned inside the stadium, at ceremonies and at the podium during the Games.

The IOC asserted that it came to the conclusion to enforce “Rule 50” after a survey of more than 3500 Olympic athletes past and present where “more than 70%” of the athletes surveyed favored enforcement of “Rule 50”.  Obviously, that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull; athletes – – and associations of athletes – – condemned that announcement and proclaimed their support for protesting athletes assuring them “legal assistance” if they suffered any punishment by the IOC.

Let me take a contrarian stance here…  The fact that the IOC intends to enforce ‘Rule 50” and intends to “punish” demonstrating athletes or other sorts of national officials involved in the Games is vital to the protestors.  If the IOC were to say that “Rule 50” is hereby null and void and that the Olympic officials welcomed and encouraged knee-taking or fist-raising or audience-mooning as protests against any and all things that might be an affront to any athlete anywhere, there would be no protest.  After all, how can you protest someone or something that agrees with you.

The IOC announcement that “Rule 50” will be enforced is more than merely “necessary and sufficient” for protests by athletes in Tokyo; the real or imagined strict enforcement of “Rule 50” is a sine qua non for there to be a protest.  Absent “Rule 50”, any gesture by the athletes is merely a demonstration and not a protest.  Therefore, the most important thing for athletes who might be contemplating a protest at the Games this year to do is to complain loudly about the unfairness of ‘Rule 50” without being sufficiently convincing to make the IOC change its stance.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised a fist with a black glove as a protest at the 1968 Olympic Games; it is remembered today because it was an affrontery to the rules and to the authorities that made and enforced those rules.  I suggest that the world would not recall that moment in Olympic history nearly as vividly had all the Olympic officials joined in the “protest” and raised fists and patted John Carlos and Tommie Smith on the back for their action(s).  Protests require opposition to have meaning; “Rule 50” and its threatened enforcement is that sort of opposition.

Finally, let me close today with an observation by a curmudgeon who would certainly be in the Hall of Fame of curmudgeons should there ever be such an institution – – H. L. Mencken:

“Democracy is grounded on so childish a complex of fallacies that they must be protected by a rigid system of taboos, else even half-wits would argue it to pieces.  Its first concern must thus be to penalize the free play of ideas.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………