So there's this article this week in the New York Times, "Humility By The Pack" about this new hazing ritual going on in baseball - making the rookie relief pitcher wear a "girly" backpack while they walk across the field to the bullpen.
“It’s just one more way to get at your rookie,” said Mets pitcher Tim Byrdak, 37. “You have to walk all the way across the field to get to the bullpen, so you make the rookie carry this pink bag, and you can kind of humiliate him.”
The Phillies added a pink boa to their Rookie's bag:
For much of this season, Michael Stutes of the Philadelphia Phillies was forced to wear a Hello Kitty backpack and a pink feather boa purchased by Brad Lidge, a 10-year veteran, during a road trip to San Francisco. “I thought it wasn’t right for Stutes to be carrying a plain black bag,” Lidge said. “I was in Macy’s shopping for my kids. I just knew we wanted something pink.”and there's a they-did-it-to-me-so-I'll-do-it-to-the-next-guy thing going on:
It's nice that Schwimer (and some of the other relief pitchers) have a good attitude about this and laugh it off. And there are a bunch of non-pink backpacks used by other teams for the same hazing purposes, Yoda and Cookie Monster among them. But the general pink-as-punishment tone of the practice, and the article, reveal some really disturbing messaging in our culture and in the sport of baseball:
Last month, for instance, Stutes was able to rid himself of the Hello Kitty and boa ensemble when the Phillies called up Michael Schwimer, 25, a 6-foot-8 right-hander.
“He was very happy to hand it over to me,” Schwimer said. “I’ll just wear it with pride.”
Namely, that being seen wearing (and possibly liking) a pink / girly / frilly item, as a man, makes you LESS of a man, and LESS of an athlete to be reckoned with.
That having to wear something pink and girly and frilly, as a man, should humiliate you.
That liking pink, or being effeminate, is bad.
That being like a girl is bad.
I hear it all the time in high schools, that it's harder to be an effeminate straight boy than a macho gay boy.
What's going on in Major League Baseball with this 'pink' hazing is dangerous territory. It's misogynistic and sets children up for the lock-step of "boys can't like pink." It reinforces the stereotypes about which gender is allowed to do what, and is toxic.
And while Trevor Hoffman, baseball’s career leader in saves, may think the bags are harmless,
“I think it’s amusing for the fans to see. It’s kind of a way of pointing out who’s the low man on the totem pole.”this feeds a culture of hate.
This feeds our culture, where Jaheem Herrera, who was 11 years old, got taunted as 'gay' for carrying a pink backpack to his Dunaire Elementary School in Georgia.
After months of anti-gay taunts and violence, Jaheem killed himself in 2009.
So while it's nice to see the Phillies doing an It Gets Better Video,
You gotta wonder what Mike Stutes was thinking about while he read his lines in the video, having been made to wear the most stereotypically girly backpack/boa combination this season, and then passing that same getup along to the next rookie.
Right now, Major League Baseball is teaching bullying.
Putting aside the issue of why professional sports players are trying to humiliate their own team members (sportsmanship, anyone?), there is something the Phillies (and the rest of the teams engaged in this 'pink' hazing) can do right now to help make things better:
uncouple their rookie relief pitcher hazing from the message that pink is girly is bad.
What about it, Phillies?