Coming back to the same thing, unfortunately

By Benjamin Chase of the Plainsman
Posted 4/6/24

In this From the Mound, the writer examines the connection between a celebrated baseball event and modern sports coverage

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Coming back to the same thing, unfortunately


“Ooh, I can’t take this very much longer, no
I’m stranded in the sleet and rain
Don’t think I’m ever gonna make it home again”
Journey — “Wheel in the Sky”

If you want to see a great mash-up of the end of 1970s style and the beginning of 1980s style in rock music, the video for this Journey song is a great representation. The members of the band seem to alternate between long hair, tight shirt, and jeans (or even leather pants) that epitomized 1980s hair rock with the huge afro-style hairdos with “hippy” clothing and bell bottoms that represented the ‘70s.

It certainly fits the time it was recorded and released, as the group dropped the single in March of 1978. Journey was pushing toward more “hard rock” sound from their previous work, which was more ballad-style.

Ironically, this was the first album featuring the iconic Steve Perry on vocals for the group, and Perry’s incredible voice would eventually lead Journey to its largest successes in the 1980s performing…ballads.

The song itself leans into the style of other hard rock groups in the late ‘70s by opening with nearly 30 seconds of instrumental before Perry’s first vocal. The song was based on a poem written by the wife of the group’s bass player, Diane Valory.

The narrator in the song laments how things keep coming back around that prevent him from returning home, whether life or weather. He wants to return home to a partner but continues to have things pop up that get in the way, in the section quoted above blaming the weather for his absence.

The rotation of the Earth brings us back around to things over and over again, and unfortunately, that also emphasizes why truly learning our history is so invaluable.

Monday will mark the 50th anniversary of one of my favorite baseball moments - even though it predates my birth by five-plus years, Hank Aaron hitting home run No. 715 to break Babe Ruth’s career home run record.

Aaron passed away in 2021, but he relayed the sometimes-horrific experience of being a Black baseball player in America in the 1940s and 1950s when he was working through the minor leagues and Negro Leagues before debuting with the then-Milwaukee Braves.

He played through the entirety of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, which would lead to hope that those racist ideas so prevalent in his minor league days would have been dispelled, at least to some degree, by the time he closed the 1973 season one home run short of Ruth’s record, leading to the inevitability that he’d break the record early in the 1974 season.

That was not the case, however, as Aaron received numerous racist emails, including hundreds of death threats at his in-season home in Atlanta as well as at the team’s offices. National newspapers reported on the racist correspondence the team received with incredible photos of huge postal bags filled with letters turned over to the FBI by the team.

“Sheer racism, exposed in vile letters directed to Hank Aaron, have poured into the Atlanta Braves offices over the past week,” one newspaper reported.

Oh, wait.

That wasn’t a quote from 1974.

That was a quote from 2014 when the Braves prepared to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the home run with a ceremony at their new park, Truist Field.

USA Today got copies of the letters through a source and printed excerpts, though they’re much too distasteful to include in this piece.

The thought that “I don’t see color” is a great idea, but it’s interesting that in my lifetime, I’ve not heard one of my friends of another race use that phrase.

A political movement has begun to de-base diversity and equity training/teaching within schools and businesses, with a lot of the same phrasing used to combat those programs as was commonly used to combat and de-base the very real arguments made by Civil Rights Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in the 1960s.

Heck, as we’ve mentioned in this space previously, King’s own words are often co-opted by those who never would have supported him at the time…in order to further the cause of racism, not combat it as was the obvious intent of King.

While books that describe living with racism are banned from libraries in the country and discussing real, honest racial history in this country (and in this state) are being fought to be kept out of history classes, even the media has to realize its own biases and protect against those thoughts creeping into our writing and coverage today.

If you haven’t noticed, women’s basketball is having a moment. Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese’s Iowa and Louisiana State squads just met in a rematch of the championship game last year. Many articles were written in the lead-up to the game, including one by Los Angeles Times writer Ben Bolch.

Bolch’s piece took an angle of describing the predominantly-white Iowa team as good and the predominantly-black LSU team as evil. He also described Tiger players as “villains” and “dirty debutantes.”

To their credit, the Times has since edited the story, and Bolch put out a public apology for the words, but it’s another sign that 50 years after a man had his life threatened because he was hitting a baseball, we’re still struggling to truly appreciate how words, representation, and actions can matter to those who don’t look like us or have the same background.

And the wheel will likely continue to bring the issue around again…and again, until we take active measures to change our mindset and then open ourselves to the possibility that cultural norms and even laws on the books can look very different to someone coming from a different perspective.

Hank Aaron, LSU Tigers, Angel Reese, Journey