That baseball hazing ritual of dressing up rookies as Wonder Woman, Hooters Girls and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders is now banned. USA TODAY Sports
First off it is literally impossible to answer this question without someone getting offended, but I am going to try and take an objective approach.
I am not arguing for bullying because that's not what this is. I'm not arguing for purposely offensive behavior because that's not even close to what this is. I am arguing for a certain sense of logic, historical truth and tolerance.
I am arguing a principle of team building in a safe manner, not defending random individual acts that could be used to paint the entire process as bad, which is how most arguments are framed these days.
I believe in the rite of passage, I believe it's team building and I believe that it can be done in a way that is sensitive but allows that team building process to unfold.
A few examples wherein we accept behavior for what it is, because it is understood the intention to be "comedy."
Should we ban all comedians? There is an entire profession built around the notion of being offensive. Some of our favorite and most famous figures are comedians, and we are all delighted for a five-minute skit.
Children play dress-up all the time. They inevitably decide how they can look the funniest, because this is understood even in their child-like minds, and they roll around for hours laughing at each other as they change costumes so to speak. Do we cry foul when our children play dress up?
Halloween is a fairly understood dress-up day. Some people take it too far, but largely it is celebrated as a fun way to have an adventure with friends, family and see creativity in action. Should we similarly ban Halloween?
There are a number of venues or situations where the act of dress up is understood, and offense is not intended to be serious but an act of humor.
So while many will argue the fear of political correctness, I would say that the degree of embarrassment to the individual or public falls many levels below an actual comedy show and Halloween, but worse it deprives the individual athlete of a ceremony wherein they are the center of the team for a day, and everyone largely is celebrating their accomplishment as full-fledged major leaguers. It's actually a ceremony of acceptance, and someone stupidly branded it as "hazing," and that's how we have arrived here.
Yes, I remember my dress-up day. I remember it fondly. I was dressed as a female of some sort. We weren't making fun of people that actually dress that way, we were dressed up in uncomfortable clothes, as a contrast of macho dudes dressed in too tight fitting or too revealing clothes for our body type. Anyone looking at the exercise from a lens of humor would see the contrast for what it is and wouldn't be offended.
I find it far more unfortunate that we twist truths to fit a narrative. Bullying exists, and bullying is quite terrible, inexcusable. In fact, the act of singling someone out for a difference or a weakness is disgusting to me. But to parallel these is a farce, and I see people mangle and mash up ideology as if this is MLB players' thought process.
Much of the time the outfit is an inside joke that might be a play on one word or instance that occurred during the season, and everyone on the team understands the symbolic nature of the outfit. But to those on the outside, they interpret it completely different.
To insist that these outfits are disrespectful to anyone is maybe a stronger case than bullying but like comedy is either so clearly understood or the outfit itself doesn't even symbolize or attempt to symbolize how it's being reported/ twisted to fit some narrative.
Most importantly to consider, people have been dressing each other up in a humorous fashion for thousands of years, especially men dressing up other men. A few minutes on Google and there are hundreds of pertinent examples all over the world that continue to this day.
Rookie dress-up is like anything in this life. Done appropriately it is a healthy ritual. Taken too far and it becomes either offensive or dangerous. And now it's out of the players' hands. A part of the game that was openly and happily shared with fans in an effort to show our child-like spirit or humble ourselves in wearing something funny as a team-building moment is now gone but truthfully won't change much, and I don't really care that much.
But rest assured some other ritual will rise, will be kept far more secret and hopefully it's as safe and harmless as uncomfortable clothes.
Huston Street, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, has been in the major leagues since 2005 and has long been a star closer. His late father, James Street, was a quarterback who won the 1969 national football championship at the University of Texas. Asked his thoughts about Major League Baseball's new Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy, Street e-mailed a lengthy response on Tuesday to The Associated Press, which is above and has been lightly edited for style.
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