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Baseball 'Whiffed' On Bigger Statement In Baltimore

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Baseball is back to normal this weekend after a very abnormal game this week in Baltimore. The sports world was captivated by the Orioles and White Sox playing a game in an empty Camden Yards, due to the riots in Baltimore.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says Major League Baseball missed the chance to make a bigger statement.

'Lost Opportunity'

Thiel said he understands the game was played in an empty stadium for safety reasons.

"A regularly-scheduled game would've ended probably after curfew in Baltimore," he said. "And they decided to play the game during the day and without fans just to reduce the headache of what was happening there. I don't want to second guess that. But I think there was an opportunity lost.

"I would've like to have seen the game left unplayed. I would like these two teams to have 161 games instead of 162 as a reminder of what happened on this day in April. And why this happened. Because it's so easy to forget," he said.

Can't Ignore It

Thiel referred to President Obama's remarks on the violence in Baltimore. Thiel said Obama delivered perhaps his most honest and forthright statement of his entire presidency on the issue of the riots. He said one particular line stuck with him:

"We'll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities. And the occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away and then we go about our business as usual."

"That's what happens in these circumstances," Thiel said. "We say 'Oh my gosh, that's terrible. Somebody should do something about it.' And then we get back to our schedules.

"Just like baseball made its schedule sacred, as they always do: 'You can't have two teams with an unplayed game!' I'm thinking maybe we could to keep the issue in the forefront of mainstream America, that loves its seasons and its games and its sports, as a reminder that there are things going on in this culture that are a bigger deal.

"I think everyone knows that intellectually but they always expect somebody else to do something about it. In this case, the police and the young men in this community are the last two groups to be able to solve the problem.

More Than Just An Empty Stadium

Thiel said, at the core, the problem is economic inequality. Orioles Chief Operating Officer John Angelos made a statement to that effect. Here is a portion of what Angelos said via Twitter:

"The focus should be on the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shifted middle-class and working-class jobs away from Baltimore and the cities and towns around the U.S. to third world dictatorships and plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation."

That's where this issue lies," Thiel said. "Not in the streets of Baltimore. And it makes us all very uncomfortable. I don't think Americans are bad or evil for not addressing these problems.

"We need to remind ourselves - someway, somehow - that this is an ongoing concern that won't go away when the TV helicopters go away," he said.

"It's part of our makeup. It's part of our culture. We need to address it and we need constant reminders. This game was an opportunity to be unplayed as a reminder. And we whiffed."


You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.