The phrase woke isn’t one I use all that often. It’s not that I don’t agree with the concept, rather it’s not a part of my lexicon. I am aware that in my everyday and online life I am someone who would be viewed as a woke individual. That’s not meant to be a badge of honor or anything like that. Heck, the only reason I know I would be considered woke is the number of tweets I get deriding me for being woke about one issue or another. Still, if I’m woke then I wonder when exactly that came to be?
Like most things in life, it all comes back to baseball. Growing up I was your average child, nothing spectacular and very much on the “America is great, nothing to worry about here” train. Looking back it’s clear why that was the case. I’m a cishet white male, that makes me part of the group with the least amount of issues in my country. We were poor and that should have helped me understand class struggle better, but it really didn’t because I was insulated from the reality of my class status.
In my early twenties I was still very much a rah-rah America type. Then my dad died and I began to question more things. It was also around this time that my baseball team, the Chicago Cubs hired Bob Brenly to be a part of their announce booth. At first, I liked Brenly, he spoke about the game in the way I thought was right and true. Then I noticed he was constantly going in on my favorite player and many of his comments seemed petty and cheap.
I’ve had many favorite Cubs throughout the years, but Aramis Ramírez is near the top of the list. From the moment he joined the team until he left he was one of my favorites. He fit the ethos of the team like a glove. He was great, yet never given the recognition he deserved. Look back at his stats only makes that more evident. Somewhere along the line, I realized that Ramírez played the game in a smart way, a way that I wanted others to emulate. He played hard when he needed to, but he also took it easy when he didn’t need to go hard. The Cubs third baseman was the first player to get me to realize that players are better when not giving 100% on every play but playing as much as possible than they are when giving 100% and ending up on the disabled list.
This didn’t seem to be obvious to Brenly. He was constantly dogging Ramírez about his lack of hustle and often his lack of smarts. While this bothered me and turned me against Brenly it wasn’t until Starlin Castro joined the Cubs that I realized why Brenly was bothering me so much. He leveled the same criticisms against Castro that he did against A-Ram, and then I noticed he seemed to bring those complaints up about every single player whose skin wasn’t white.
I’m not about to tell you that Bob Brenly turned me into a socialist who cares about labor, race, healthcare, etc. However, Brenly helped open that doorway. He hated and ragged on players for no reason other than the color of their skin. I didn’t want that in my baseball, but the more I paid attention the more I saw that behavior throughout baseball and everywhere in life. If baing against racism and stereotypes makes me woke then I am woke. Baseball and Bob Brenly helped me get to my current woke state, so go yell at him about my wokeness why don’t you.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown