As many of you readers probably know, I’m a bit of a baseball fanatic. A Yankees fan since I was a little boy growing up in Alaska.
My teen years, from the mid-1990’s on, were spent watching greats like Paul O’Neill, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera take the field. This weekend Rivera, specifically, was inducted to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in a manner unprecedented in baseball history.
An honor not even bestowed on players whose names – Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, etc. – are known to people who aren’t baseball fans at all.
For Yankees fans, for baseball fans, it was a good weekend.
Sadly the Daily Beast decided to commemorate the occasion with a mean-spirited jeremiad about Rivera’s politics headlined, “Inside Baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera’s Far-Right Politics.”
Let me give you some context for just how unfair that headline is. Rivera, throughout his career, was a quiet and soft-spoken man. He was vicious on the mound, known for breaking bats with a nearly unhittable cut fastball, but a gentleman off it.
I have followed the Yankees intensely for more than 20 years, and I had no idea about Rivera’s politics. I knew he was deeply religious, and supposed he had cultural views generally in line with that, but didn’t give it much thought. Because it didn’t matter. Mariano Rivera was a great baseball player (I think he could still probably close games in the majors even now), and his politics were and still are irrelevant.
Unlike celebrities today, who bray endlessly about their political views, Rivera mostly kept it to himself.
To hear Daily Beast reporter Robert Silverman tell it, that was some nefarious act. He reports that “pro athletes’ political beliefs were kept private in the ‘90s and 2000s, and the vast majority of reporters couldn’t have cared less. If Rivera wanted to compartmentalize that part of his life, he didn’t need to put in much effort.”
But wasn’t it better when celebrities, including athletes, stayed in their lane? I don’t begrudge anyone their right to speak their mind, but very often celebrities use their platforms of fame to carpet bomb us with opinions that aren’t really any better informed than anyone else’s.
Rivera was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, but maybe he had the humility to realize that didn’t make him an expert on public policy.
Which isn’t to say that Rivera hasn’t been involved in politics. He has, mostly lending his celebrity to fundraising for things like the Trump presidency, for instance, and pro-Israel causes. These are the things Silverman highlights as Rivera’s “right wing” politics, and while certainly his activities probably leave a bad taste in the mouth of our friends on the left, so what?
It’s no sin to hold political views which run contrary to left wing orthodoxy.
Mariano Rivera was a wonderful baseball player, widely respected as both a player and a human being across the sport, who has spent some of his own time and money promoting political causes he believes in. Quietly, relative to other celebrities of his stature.
But because his politics are on right side of the political spectrum, he’s attacked.
It’s a symptom of the times we live in, I’m afraid. “[P]rogressives act as though anyone who dares disagree with them is bad. Not wrong, but bad, guilty of some human failing, some impurity that is a moral evil that justifies their venom,” Maureen Dowd wrote in a column recently.
This treatment of Rivera is evidence she’s right.