One of the most famous essays ever written about baseball was written by Bart Giamatti, the Yale professor turned baseball commissioner. At the end of the 1977 season, fearing the long wait until spring, Giamatti said that the game of baseball “breaks your heart. It’s designed to break your heart.”

Any long-suffering fan has learned that wisdom all too well. But a distinctive form of 21st-century angst has entered the scene for today’s fans: Center field is now a battleground in the culture war, and many fans have the distinct feeling that those who run their beloved pastime would really rather take your business elsewhere. . Baseball is part of the fabric of American civic life. When he picks sides on controversial issues, as the Los Angeles Dodgers are currently doing, everyone feels like they just struck out.

Starting in Chicago in 2001, LGBT themed nights at the ballpark have become commonplace throughout the sport (the Texas Rangers remain the only MLB team not to don’t host one.) In 2021, the San Francisco Giants became the first team to use Pride-themed logos. during a game. With 81 ticketed home games and the largest use of Pride-themed branding to advertise everything from Oreos to mouthwashIt’s no surprise that franchises are looking to take advantage of the trend of “rainbow wash.”

But inclusion for some has come to mean exclusion for others. As part of the Pride Night celebrations, the Dodgers invited, then didn’t invite, then invited again the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgencea self-described “Queer and Trans Order of Nuns” that “uses humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry.”

Their target is often the Catholic Church. The group’s roster includes faux-religious obscenities like Sister Risqué of the Sissytine Chapel, Father Fellatio, Sister Missionary Position, and other less-printable mockery of traditional Catholic figures and beliefs. His motto: “Go sin some more!”

The Dodgers saw fit to award the team’s Community Hero Award to the group, despite a rather pedestrian track record of real impact; for his documents archived with According to the IRS, the group offers modest grants, between $50,000 and $60,000, to community groups each year. Reaction continued, but after a first retractthe team reinvited the sisters.”

The news came as a betrayal to many longtime Dodgers fans, who remembered devout Catholics. vin scully melodically commenting games for 67 seasons, the “days of the nunsused to fill Chavez Ravine with (royal) headdresses and habits, and recipient of the Catholic Bronze Star Gil Hodges playing first base. The Dodgers seemed happy to dismiss that story, to the dismay of Catholics like Bishop Robert Barron, until recently an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who called for a boycott of the team.

Perhaps most importantly, the players playing the game have also started talking. Clayton Kershaw, a future Hall of Fame pitcher who has played his entire career for the Dodgers, told the Los Angeles Times saw the “Sisters” as “a group that made fun of a religion, [something] which I disagree with.” A statement attributed to his Dodgers teammate Blake Treinen, currently out with an injury, said the decision to invite a group that “openly mocks Jesus Christ … disenfranchises a great community and promotes hatred of Christians and people of faith.

Los Angeles Dodgers game
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MAY 30: Jason Heyward #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs the bases after hitting a home run against the Washington Nationals in the second inning at Dodger Stadium on May 30, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

And Trevor Williams, an eight-year MLB veteran and outspoken Catholic, weighed in on Twitter, saying that an MLB game “is a place where people from all walks of life should feel welcome.” But, he noted, “creating an environment where one group feels celebrated and honored at the expense of another is counterproductive and wrong,” noting that it appeared to contradict the team’s own policies that prohibit bias toward other groups.

In an age of quackery, when athletes are publicly feted by empty statements about social justice affair of the day, these words require tremendous courage. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to recognize the guts it takes to stand up in principle not only to popular opinion and sports radio shows, but also to your own employer, in defense of the values ​​you hold dear. When the criticism comes for Kershaw and other players who are making his voice heard, and they will, fans should applaud not only his right to speak freely, but also the courage to do so.

But at the same time they may regret that the comments were necessary. The game known as America’s hobby has never been free from politics. But it is, or should be, a place where Americans of all persuasions can put their differences aside to cheer on the local nine.

Conservatives feel that progressives are aggressors in the culture war because the simple act of watching a baseball game or opening a beer is now embroiled in complex questions of political identity and controversial medical procedures. Boycotts are unquestionably a dramatic tool, but many conservatives feel that it is the only tool left to them.

Of course, refusing to watch a local team is a sacrifice beyond avoiding a mass-market beer that no one likes, or a retailer that carries merchandise available at most big-box stores. Families have generations of stories tied to nights out with Vin, trips down the 110 to catch a game, impossible victories and heartbreaking losses.

The executives who run baseball know it takes a lot to break those ties, and they know the fans will put up with a lot, but the “Sisters” fiasco should be a reminder that those ties can be severed. If baseball cracks down on players who stand up for what they believe in, or if teams continue to push the envelope by welcoming offensive groups and incorporating politicized logos onto the field, fans looking for an escape from our divisions toxic policies will go elsewhere.

The baseball game is designed to break your heart between the foul lines. The suits in corporate offices shouldn’t break the hearts of fans further by unnecessarily politicizing their game.

Patrick T. Brown (@PTBwrites) is a fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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