Thursday Thnotes

1) This morning, Mike and Mike brought on former Reds’ reliever Rob Dibble to talk about the unwritten rules of baseball – specifically pitchers throwing at hitters to protect their own teammates, with Dibble naturally defending the practice. To illustrate the need for such practices, Dibs told the story of how, back in 1988, Orel Hershiser plunked Dibble’s teammate Eric Davis three times in one game. Dibs repeated the assertion a second time, so there was no mistaking the claim. Dibble pointed out that this was the year Hershiser dominated baseball and had as good command as any pitcher in the sport. So, there was no way this was an accident.

In part because it was Rob Dibble, I confess the claim sounded like bullshit to me. *Something* would have happened had Hershisher beaned an opposing player three times in the same game. Given the tools now available, even amateur sleuths can find this stuff out really quickly. In this case, it took roughly 90 seconds to determine that: a) Hershisher hit four batters all year in 1988; b) that he never hit more than one batter in any game he pitched that year and c) that he hit Eric Davis precisely once.

Now maybe in the game in which Herhiser hit Davis, he also threw inside on him a couple of additional times. That I can’t find out.

But, channeling my inner “politifact,” I rate this claim as Pants on Fire.

2) Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing has a nice discussion of recent criticisms of FIFA.com for highlighting Alex Morgan’s looks in its Women’s World Cup coverage. Morgan, one of the best women’s soccer players in the world, has received lots of attention both for her play and her appearance. Bucholtz notes that, yes, other outlets have focused on Morgan’s looks. But examining those pieces more closely, including one by CNN, Bucholtz makes the argument that there were justifiable contextual reasons for that focus. In the case of the CNN piece, for example, Morgan herself discussed her struggles over the years with body image.

In light of these factors, Bucholtz makes the following distinction:

The takeaway isn’t that Morgan should be condemned for using her looks to enhance her brand and her appeal. It’s her life to live as she pleases. If Morgan’s willing to pose for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and talk beauty tips, more power to her, and it’s not surprising that entertainment and beauty-focused publications are interested in that. We’ve seen this on the men’s side as well with stars like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. Some of Morgan’s popular success has definitely helped grow women’s soccer, too, which benefits more than just her….

Having her looks come up so frequently in sports pieces somewhat trivializes what she’s accomplished on the field, though. It’s not that Morgan’s looks are off-limits, especially when she wants to discuss them and when she’s doing so with a publication that normally wouldn’t be covering women’s soccer. It’s that there’s no particular need to keep discussing them in pieces that should be about what’s happening on the pitch. That’s true for media outlets, and it’s perhaps particularly true for FIFA.com. Articles like this certainly don’t help with the perception that FIFA is sexist, and the official site of this tournament should be above talking about the looks of its participants.

Just as it sometimes makes sense to consider the speaker and context when judging whether use of the N-word is appropriate – as opposed to whining willy-nilly that white people are victims of a “double standard” – it sometimes makes sense to consider whether coverage of female athletes objectifies them or not based on the female athlete’s own self-concept.

3) This is a couple of weeks old. An excellent piece for Foreign Policy by my friend, Josh Nadel, on whether a  (Western) European takeover of global soccer governance will really solve FIFA’s corruption problems. The short (and long) answer: No. No it won’t.