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The Meaning Of Matt Dermody: Loving A Game That Doesn’t Love You Back

Chaim Bloom and Matt Dermody are not helping baseball

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Note: The Red Sox designated Matt Dermody for assignment after Thursday night’s game, most likely a move that was always planned in advance, in order to accommodate Adam Duvall’s return from rehab.

Well, Happy Pride, everyone. I went into this June with a bad feeling based on incidents that have occurred with other teams. I was dreading that the next snafu might come from my own team…and I was right. Sometimes I really hate to be right.

In case you’re not aware, I’ll draw your attention to articles by Bryan Joiner and Dan Secatore. In case anyone is wondering why any of this matters, well, I’m not sure I need to explain it, but I’ll try.

Broadly, does the world need any more hateful energy put out into it, à la Dermody’s “They are going to hell”? But more specifically, we’re talking about multimillionaires with vast networks of influence who can actually make a difference, one way or the other, in the the world. In the lives of people like me. When some self-important jerk gets up on their soapbox and spews this hate, and then is publicly defended for doing so by his boss, that sends a strong message. They are saying that we don’t matter, that it’s okay — sanctioned, even. And it opens the door for more hate to be spewed. It gets to you. It has made me cry. It has put me in danger. I am in danger.

Strangers have yelled in my face as I’ve been doing something as simple as enjoying a meal at a restaurant. I’ve received a Bible verse over text from an unknown local number. I’ve been asked by a coworker when I “decided to become gay,” [Answer: “Gosh, I don’t remember...when did you decide to become straight?”] and told by another, with a smirk, that he often “thought about” my then-wife late at night. One of my retirement accounts used to include a boilerplate declaration on every statement they sent, something to the effect of: “Same-sex marriages will not be recognized and will not be subject to the same benefits.” I’ve been fired for being gay. My Irish-Catholic family didn’t seem to have too many problems with me until I got engaged to a woman.

I don’t need to recount all the things here; it would be sad, and it pales in comparison to people who have been, say, thrown out on the street as a kid simply for being gay. Honestly, I have had it easy.

And I say this as someone who has the privilege and the ability to pass as straight if I need to, something I have definitely relied on in scary situations. And it hasn’t always worked; I’ve been physically assaulted twice anyway. Until just a short time ago, I wasn’t out at the office of one of my clients. Imagine that, afraid to come out in 2023, in progressive Seattle! The only reason I ended up quietly telling my supervisor was because I had to miss work due to a medical issue within our family, and I’m still not sure I made the right decision.

When I first moved to Seattle ten years ago, there were a spate of hate crimes in the gay district here, including a fire started at a popular club where I used to go dancing.

My girlfriend and I went to a Mariners game last year and saw a row of drunk guys harassing two women who were sitting further down in our section. The things they were yelling were gross, and specifically about them being queer. It lasted throughout much of the game. They were firefighters, proudly wearing the shirts that identified the ladder company where they worked. Ushers were summoned and spent a lot of time talking to the women but nothing happened to the fire fighters. Any job I’ve worked for, if I had done that while wearing my uniform or badge, I’d have been terminated for not representing the company brand. Lots of companies I’ve worked for have had similar requirements for social media too. Companies don’t want to be embarrassed by their employees. Fire fighters and baseball players are different, I guess.

MLB: JUN 08 Red Sox at Guardians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A few years ago, I quit baseball for a little while. It was on the heels of multiple scandals all across baseball, some of them involving domestic assault incidents and how male executives were treating female reporters and dismissing concern over these cases of violence. There was one report that was initially hazy, involving one of our own young outfielders acquired by trade at the time. That was later explained but it all felt like a morass of noxious garbage. Where was there any place for a female fan in this? I turned to cricket instead.

Things have since changed with MLB’s domestic violence policy but the point is, I felt disgusted in the face of this cynicism and paper-thin excuses. And hopeless. How could I be proud to wear those jerseys? How could I give them as gifts, how could mothers be proud to buy them for their kids?

Bigots are encouraged when they see other bigots getting away with this.

Bloom called it “inclusive” but it’s not. He may have thought he danced around the issue sufficiently. Others will use the word “conversations” as a smokescreen, as if they’ve done something valuable to advance the human condition by not calling hate what it is. It means something to have this grime settle on you, time after time. It’s gross. And it also means something when someone calls out this vicious talk for what it is. The Jack Flahertys and Sean Doolittles of the world have my gratitude and love forever. They are the ones making a difference.

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

I could make an impassioned plea based on higher suicide rates among gay folks, especially teens, or make a moral case about what Jesus would do.

“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. – Jesus. (John 15:12)

Besides being the human and Christian thing to do, let me make the case another way.

If MLB wants to get bigger, and younger in terms of their fanbase — which they’ve proven they do — Rob Manfred and executives like Chaim Bloom need to watch this disingenuous kowtowing to bigots and endorsements of hate. I know parents who have turned away from professional sports to amateur ones, or to the WNBA, which tries to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Multiple polls and statistics say that Gen Z has no time for hate speech, especially as it relates to sexuality, and that almost 20% of the group has identified themselves as LGBTQ+. If you want to grow and prosper, MLB, think about this. Get serious. Put as much thought into this as you have the pitch clock, or the size of the new bases.

I’m confident that Matt Dermody, who isn’t a good baseball player, will never be more famous — or praised, unfortunately — than he was yesterday. But the damage he did will take some time to repair.

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