After 9/11, sports writers let President George W. Bush off the hook for a failed war, racism, the failure of capitalism and a denial of LGBT rights. Now they're giving President Donald Trump a pass for his mistakes after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S., claims Deadspin writer Sam Fels on Wednesday. At the root of the problem is the notion that sports can aid the world in recovery from horrific events.
Baseball is intertwined with the ugly parts of American history and culture, particularly "racism and income equality/failures of capitalism," says Fels. President Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium after 9/11 was supposedly proof of “healing” or “recovery.”
"It was viewed as heroic. Inspirational. Which gave Bush even more capital to start a horribly mismanaged war that’s still going nearly 20 years later and another completely unnecessary one that only resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands."
Fels questions what was actually recovered by President Bush after the 9/11 attacks on America:
"Three years later that same man won reelection on the back of those destructive wars, keeping LGBTQ people from marrying the people they love, and policies that kept minorities and poor people alike in the mud. Sports, like pretty much everything else, failed to keep us from separating ourselves again."
Note the fans at Yankee Stadium going wild when W took the field to throw that ceremonial pitch before a 2001 World Series game. Chanting "USA, USA," they obviously did not share Fels' doom and gloom pessimism:
The "dummard-Cheeto in charge" -- that's how Fels introduces President Trump into his leftist screed -- is now looking for a return to "the facade of 'normalcy,' which he and other leaders can use as a sign of strength or triumph. They can take the glow of it, falsely hold it up as proof that we’re on the other side and they’re the ones who brought us to it. That’s their main goal. Not actual recovery or normalcy." If the media is giving Trump a pass on his handling of the virus, it has been anything but obvious!
Fels wonders if a state of “normalcy” from events like the COVID-19 virus is even possible or desirable in the future. The coronavirus is revealing "the massive problems" in health care, income inequality, government policy and management, corruption and more, he charges.
"It would be healthier for everyone in the long run to keep those issues at the forefront long after the epidemic is quelled," Fels hopes. "The problems that allowed this to become what it has will not change in a return to normalcy."
The people in power that Fels hates want some sort of signal that things are okay again. Then people will stop wanting change. This is the trap that too many writers are falling into by perpetuating the so-called myth of recovery, he thinks.
Fels identifies the positives in sports as radicals like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe. However, he views the successes of teams in areas of tragedy as incapable of restoring order and normalcy.
By going to the Stanley Cup as a first-year NHL team, the Las Vegas Knights didn’t bring about new gun control laws after the shooting slaughter there. By playing in the 2001 World Series, the Yankees did not stop "flawed and dangerous foreign policy and hatred and racism. This list could go on forever," Fels says.
This Deadspin writer wants no crisis to go to waste, as long as it moves the needle forward for social justice gains.