If there are two subjects I love, they are baseball and politics. I have had various times in my life when I have been obsessed with both, and I have had various times in my life when I've had to shield my eyes from both.
Despite my interest in the two realms, I am always surprised when the two cross over. Sure, conservative political commentator George Will wrote one of the great baseball books of all time, and sure former President George W. Bush owned the Texas Rangers.
Still, I never think of baseball players as political entities and I never think of politicians as sports fans.
And perhaps this is for the best.
I liked Jim Bunning a whole lot more before I found out he was an ultra-right wing crackpot from Kentucky. (Which isn't to say that all ultra-right wing politicians are crackpots. I very much respect Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, and I find myself to be very fond of Ron Paul. But Bunning is a crackpot.)
I also liked Curt Schilling a whole lot more before he started campaigning for President Bush in 2004.
Nevertheless, I respect the political persuasions of professional athletes, and I also respect their right to support their candidates. Schilling voted for Bush; to me it seemed like a bad idea, but big whoop.
When I found out that Peyton Manning, one of my favorite athletes in the world, was a contributor to the McCain campaign, I was a bit taken aback. In retrospect, though, if I made the money Peyton Manning makes every year, I'd probably find myself on the "less taxes" side of the equation as well.
Nevertheless, I do find it absolutely shocking that Albert Pujols could be politically tone deaf enough to participate in Glenn Beck's political rally in Washington this weekend. In order to demonstrate why, let me relay the following conversation I had with my wife on our way from Philadelphia to Baltimore on Saturday morning:
Her: "We're lucky we're not going to the Smithsonian instead of the Maryland Science Center."
Me: "Oh yeah? Why's that?"
Her: "Because Glenn Beck is having some sort of rally on the Mall, and Al Sharpton is having a rival rally at the same time."
Me: "Holy crap! That's gonna be a zoo."
Me: "So, where's the rally for reasonable, middle of the road people being held?"
At the end of the day, Glenn Beck (and to no less a degree Al Sharpton) is an opportunist; he says incendiary things that rouse his supporters, and weaves that support into gold. Beck is not a politician; he is a rabble-rouser, and someone who stirs up trouble to further his own personal gains.
Wanna know what the difference between a national television personality and a national politician is? If a national television personality can get 20 million viewers per week, he will be a huge success; if a national politician were to get 20 million votes in an election, it would be a disaster.
And so it is that on Saturday, Albert Pujols allowed himself and his image to become part of Glenn Beck's multi-media machine. Pujols will now be a pawn in Glenn Beck's money-making game.
People who know very little about Albert Pujols but hate Glenn Beck will now hate Albert Pujols. And I think that is a shame.
The world is full of people trying to say incendiary things to further their own agendas. In fact, I am only writing this column because the article on Bleacher Report right now that has received the most comments at this very moment is on the same topic. I am even going to finish this article with a flourish so as to motivate more comments. (See? I am no ideologue.)
At the end of the day, if a professional athlete wants to stomp the campaign trail on behalf of a politician they agree with, then they have every right and they should, even if I don't like their candidate.
(Flourish alert) But to allow oneself to become the victim of an egotistical blow-hard who sews the seeds of division on national television every night simply for the purpose of making himself a millionaire, with absolutely no regard for the very people he pretends to represent, nor the very democracy for which he claims so much concern is unacceptable.
I hate Glenn Beck, and Albert Pujols should too (end of flourish).