From time to time, Congress has involved itself in the world of baseball. Now it’s time for Congress to look at baseball for a possible solution to its current gridlock.
CNN contributor Bob Greene recently wrote about how baseball has experienced considerable gridlock over the past half-century. Who would think that our national pastime would be put on hold because the owners and the players could not get along? Actually, the question is not whimsical; the dynamics of greedy owners and players seeking justice led to a number of strikes, lock outs, and general work stoppages in the game. At first it was owners versus players who had to maintain extra jobs; now it is billionaires versus millionaires.
The sport, which is currently moving through its postseason and toward the World Series, is hardly without its own troubles; it has endured its share of shutdowns, strikes and lockouts. It was during one of those work stoppages — the seven-week strike of 1981– that an anguished fan pleaded publicly with the leaders of the sport, both the owners and the players, to come to their senses.
The fan was Bart Giamatti, who at the time was the president of Yale University and who would go on to become the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Giamatti, frustrated by the posturing and excuses on both sides, wrote that the failure to open up the gates of the ballparks was “utter foolishness. … The people of America care about baseball, not about your squalid little squabbles. Reassume your dignity and remember that you are the temporary custodians of an enduring public trust.”
For many Americans, the current gridlock in Washington is a “squalid little squabble.” Yes, Tea Party members see it as a matter of principle as do progressives on their side. But most people do not understand the issues at play and this is why they take an “a pox on both of your houses” attitude. This is why they cannot see that President Obama and most Democrats want government to play a vital and necessary role in the functioning of our society whereas the Republicans seem to have little or no cares about the well-being of the American people, particularly those who are of limited financial means.
It is not President Obama or the Democrats who want a “work stoppage” now. They know that a functioning government is what almost all Americans want, just as baseball fans want the game to continue rather than having petty squabbles among parties that generally eschew principle for pure financial gain.
Or as Bob Greene puts it:
That the majority of the public — the employers of these officials — want the government to open back up seems to have mattered little to those entrusted with the authority to open it. The politicians’ belated nervous scrambling of the last few days, prompted by the citizens’ disdain, has only highlighted how badly they overestimated the limits of the country’s patience.
The sooner that the leaders of government — the “temporary custodians of an enduring public trust” — fully comprehend that there is, and will be, no general sympathy heading their way, either, the sooner they may realize that it’s time to step away from the television cameras and cease their futile search for that sympathy. And instead do the jobs they are being paid to do.
In most labor disputes in baseball, it was the owners who caved in because the public had very little sympathy for them. It was the players with whom the fans identified.
In Washington, the public seems to be disgusted with both sides. But the President has considerably more support than the Republicans in Congress. As everyone’s popularity goes down, it is the Republicans who will first zero out. The site of John Boehner carping is not a pleasant sight at any time. Mr. Boehner, please give us all a break and serve your own political interests at the same time. Let the country get back to work. Play ball!