Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle has always managed to stay somewhat under the radar. He has compiled a noteworthy resume, highlighted by a World Series ring, a perfect game, a no-hitter and an MLB-record streak of 45 consecutive batters retired. After debuting in 2000, Buehrle was arguably one of the most consistent and productive starting pitchers of the previous decade, but he is hardly ever given the media attention received by some of his peers.
Perhaps the relative obscurity surrounding his career explains why his recent controversial comments aren't sparking more of a reaction. Two weeks ago, Buehrle was reported as saying he hoped, at times, that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick would get hurt during this past NFL season. Buehrle and his wife are animal rights activists and both still do not forgive Vick for his involvement in conducting an illegal dog-fighting ring.
The animosity Buehrle expressed is fair. Despite Vick's 19 months of incarceration and his subsequent attempts at reconstructing his shredded image, there are always going to be those who refuse to exonerate him for his cruel, destructive actions.
But the way Buehrle went about showcasing his hard feelings was childish and ultimately unproductive. Wishing injury, illness or death on even your worst of enemies is going to get you nowhere. It would be one thing for Buehrle to have called for a harsher punishment brought down by the NFL or even by the court of law, but to resort to mental, voodoo-doll tactics is entirely another.
The timing of this statement also makes little sense. Buehrle revealed this sentiment to MLB.com on Feb. 9, one month after the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs and Vick suited up for the final time of the season. A retrospective proclamation like Buehrle's comes across as being nothing but cowardly and pointless.
Yet, that is hardly the most questionable element of Buehrle's stance. In a follow-up interview last week, the White Sox ace not only reaffirmed his original comments, but he also made the case for distinguishing dogfighting from hunting, the latter being an activity Buehrle openly enjoys.
There is no question that dog-fighting is more heinous and disgusting than hunting and, as Buehrle pointed out, the latter is legal and considered by many to be a sport. But how does it make sense for a supposedly devoted animal rights activist to moonlight as an avid hunter?
Even considering the legitimate distinctions, dogfighting and hunting both involve killing, or attempting to kill, the same creatures that Buehrle and his wife try to protect. Buehrle hoped Vick would get injured as retribution for the pain he caused those innocent dogs. Yet he sees nothing wrong with depositing bullets into the necks of animals he tracks down for leisure?
Buehrle went on to defend his hobby by touting it as both a family and American tradition. "If [hunting is] illegal, shame on my dad and my grandpa and his grandpa," he said (courtesy of ESPN.com). "It's kind of been brought up throughout the history of America." In that case, I suppose rifles are the new apple pie.
As far as his familial influence, it is difficult to see how Buehrle's patriarchal line of hunters meshes with his wife's beliefs. Jamie Buehrle helped rescue a dog last December after it was found roaming the streets of St. Louis with an arrow lodged in its abdomen. Both she and her husband donated money to pay for the canine's veterinary bills and later helped find a new home for the dog. The two also teamed up with the White Sox organization for its "Sox for Strays" program, which hosts animal rescue groups at regular-season games at Buehrle's home ballpark U.S. Cellular Field.
As respectable as all that sounds, it still renders Buehrle the hunter as an indisputable hypocrite. While it does appear that the Buehrles' strongest affinity is towards dogs, it would make little sense to call yourself an animal rights activist and then assign separate values to the life of every species. And although Vick is rightfully on top of every animal activist's list of people to condemn, he shouldn't be on Buehrle's when Buehrle himself participates in an activity that directly contradicts his self-proclaimed principles.
This article was originally published in The Miscellany News, Vassar College's official school newspaper.
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