The All-Star Game never knew it was so important.
Except for sponsors and incentive clauses, it would have little reason to live. In 2002 the managers were so engaged that they ran out of pitchers. Take away Pedro Martinez’s magic night in Fenway Park, and Ichiro Suzuki’s inside-the-park home run in San Francisco, and what do you really remember?
But now baseball has moved the game from Atlanta to Denver because of Georgia’s new election regulations, and the All-Star Game is suddenly bigger than Dr. Seuss. Republicans are threatening to lift baseball’s antitrust exemption (and Democrats welcome them to their world). Corporations in Georgia are pushing for laws to supersede the new ones. Sen. Mitch McConnell says corporations should butt out of politics. Gov. Brian Kemp says the law isn’t really that restrictive. Former President Trump says Kemp should lose his job.
You never knew that a political baseball could have such a spin rate.
The truth is that MLB has chosen a gesture over a commitment. No one will be disadvantaged except the stadium and hospitality workers in Atlanta. That is why Stacey Abrams opposes it and why Democratic state legislators in Cobb County, where the stadium is, do as well. Perhaps MLB commissioner Rob Manfred should have talked to them, or somebody.
This goes back at least to 1980, when dissident Andrei Sakharov convinced President Carter to boycott the Moscow Olympics. The given reason was the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Moscow held the Olympics anyway and then led a boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984. The Afghans eventually drove out the Soviets, but the real victims were Anita DeFrantz in rowing, Craig Beardsley in swimming, Donald Curry in boxing, Isaiah Thomas and Denise Curry in basketball, and 465 other American Olympic athletes. There was no rain check. Their Games were gone forever.
Apparently, no one in the current State Department remembers this. The U.S. is actively looking for partners to boycott the Beijing Winter Games of 2022.
More frivolous were the calls to cancel the Tour Championship, the season-ending event of the PGA Tour. It is held at Eastlake Golf Club in south Atlanta, has been each year since 2005.
Eastlake was Bobby Jones’ home course, but when the neighborhood was consumed by drugs and poverty, Atlanta business leaders established the Eastlake Foundation. The profits from the tournament went into new housing projects and Drew Charter School. What the cops once called “Little Vietnam” has cut crime by 99 percent, and there are new modern developments to replace the hopelessness.
In fact, Drew Charter’s all-Black golf team became the first Atlanta public school to win the Georgia 4-A state championship, in 2019.
Is a block of time on the 6 o’clock news really worth interrupting something that real? Then Sen. Mario Rubio hit Manfred in the solar plexus when he wondered why Manfred didn’t abandon his membership at Augusta National Golf Club. That was just Twitter shrapnel, of course, but in 2003 there were very serious demonstrations during the Masters.
The issue was the all-male membership. There are now six women among the membership, including Condoleezza Rice and various CEOs and executive vice presidents and other members in good standing of the One Percent. The protesters went away and America and Augusta National were unchanged.
Sometimes it works. Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham wanted to change the observance of Martin Luther King to Sunday, so workers wouldn’t get a day off. The NFL pulled its Super Bowl, which stung the state both economically and egotistically because it would have been Arizona’s first and Arizona voters approved the holiday two years later.
The NCAA lifted its championships from North Carolina after Gov. Pat McCrory signed a “bathroom bill,” aimed against the transgender community. One of those events was the first weekend of the 2017 NCAA basketball tournament, which meant a Charlotte sub-regional was moved to Greenville, S.C. McCrory lost re-election, the legislature overturned the law, and basketballs were again bounced on Tobacco Road in March.
Those were consequential, clear-cut issues. The effect of the Georgia voting laws is not as certain. But that debate has nothing to do with this outbreak of dilettante politics.
There are ways to change things. NBA players do it all the time. Manfred could have asked Abrams for ways that the All-Stars could help voters register. Maybe some of the game’s profits could have gone into Fair Fight or the New Voters Project.
What we do know is the laws won’t change before October. The playoffs will follow, and the Braves might be in them. What then? Nothing. Baseball’s intention span never lasts that long.