Media scrutiny over offensive statements has become a staple of the Internet generation.
There are vast cases to be made for alleged wrongful terminations of well-known figures, with inherent freedom of speech restrictions at play. But so far, a recently excused former all-star baseball player-turned-sports analyst has uttered no complaints against his former employer, ESPN.
Curt Schilling pitched in the Major Leagues from 1988-2007. The three-time World Champion is widely remembered for the famous “Bloody Sock Game.” In Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, while a member of the Boston Red Sox, an injured Schilling tossed a dazzling performance against the New York Yankees, all while on a ruptured ankle. Blood had even begun to visibly-stain his white socks by the end of the game. His improbable performance forced a winner-take-all Game 7. The Red Sox won, effectively ending the 86-year long “Curse of the Bambino,” sending the Red Sox on their way to win their first World Series since 1918 a week later against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Following his retirement from playing, Schilling became a color-commentator and analyst for ESPN, debuting on the network in 2010. Eventually, he was promoted to the broadcasting booth for the Sunday Night Game of the Week. Since joining the network, Schilling, an ALS research and charity supporter, devoted family man and protective father, throat cancer survivor and anti-tobacco use advocate, and, oddly enough, failed businessman in the video game developing industry (It’s true, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was all the work of Schilling’s company, 38 Studios.), has managed to become one of the more frequent recipients of self-caused negative press.
STRIKE 1: Lack of Broadcasting Objectivity
Stemming from how Schilling has enraged me personally, I watched multiple Sunday Night Games of the Week during the 2015 Major League Baseball season to support my favorite team, the New York Yankees. With Schilling in the booth for these games, it even raised concerns for an outsider, who would probably have ventured a Boston Red Sox alum could still hold some disdain for his former on-field nemesis.
Wow, that sure cannot be understated enough. Schilling went tit-for-tat with partner-in-crime John Kruk in letting the national audience know just how little they cared about the Yankees. It did not matter whether or not pitcher Clay Bucholtz was getting knocked around by the Yankees, who were cruising to a 10-run lead over Schilling’s beloved Red Sox at one point. I watched Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit an RBI single, and do you want to know what the call by the color commentator in the booth was?
Well, so do I, because I did not hear one! All I heard was Curt Schilling talking about The Bloody Sock Game, the “life” on Clay Bucholtz’s fastball, and musician James Taylor’s then-upcoming debut of his ode to Fenway Park, to be performed on-field during the seventh inning stretch.
Give me a break, Curt. At least pretend to care about your duties as a broadcaster. Acknowledge the other team on the field, so maybe the blind or visually-impaired fans tuning in could distinguish this is the Red Sox squaring off against the Yankees, not a Red Sox intra-squad scrimmage.
OK, strike one certainly creates a double-edged sword to some degree, as I do hold biased motivations behind my attack of Schilling’s own bias. So we will agree that the first pitch was a little bit low.
STRIKE 2: “Muslims are Nazis”—What now?
Ah, the long-awaited, crux of Schilling’s downfall, Part I. In August of 2015, Schilling tweeted a meme comparing radical Muslims to Nazis. A big “no-no” for the man who never threw a “no-no,” may I add. While it is strike two for us here at The Mount Messenger, It was only strike one for Schilling at ESPN. The network responded by subsequently removing him from the remainder of the Sunday Night Baseball Games of the Week scheduled in the 2015 season, sending Schilling to the Baseball Tonight studio instead. A las, a victory for political correctness, with an example made out of Schilling and his unacceptable post.
Later that fall, Schilling simply tweeted that “Hillary Clinton should be buried in the ground somewhere.” This tweet alluded to presidential candidate Clinton’s e-mail scandal. Should Schilling have known better than to wage a political crusade on social media with everyone and their mothers closely watching him? Sure, but this is the same man who also replied to Republican candidate Donald Trump’s question “Who do you guys think won the debate last night?” with “ISIS.” If Schilling were a standup comedian, we could all be laughing right now, instead of directing our judgement ever so sternly.
STRIKE 3: Going Down Swinging With Some Outrageous (But Unsurprising) Anti-Transgender Sentiment
The final nail in the coffin for Schilling’s ill-fated tenure at ESPN came when on Apr. 19 of this year, he responded to North Carolina’s new law passed on Bathroom admittance for transgendered persons. His criticisms of transgenders were accompanied by, yet again, an offensive meme. In the picture, a male dressed in woman’s clothing is depicted entering a bathroom, with the caption reading: “LET HIM IN! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.” Schilling added: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
The following day, ESPN finally fired Schilling, and it was a longtime coming. They confirmed their business is an environment of inclusion, and that Schilling’s conduct would not be tolerated.
Boy, oh joyous day that this man is done exerting his influence and irrelevance on cable television. While I obviously have pre-conceived convictions about him that have existed through every fiber of my being since I was five-years old, his termination from ESPN should not be viewed any differently by persons far less passionately-triggered by him (Schilling) than I often am. His radical conservatism has been trumped (pun intended), as his denial and refusal to accept responsibility for his latest controversial post has cast an irrevocable spell on whatever fading sliver of hope remained for his reputation.
A simple “no comment,” when pressed by The New York Times was all Schilling could offer. Ironically so, as a man whose polarizing commentary, both in and out of the game, had people muting their television sets and closing their web browsers at the site of his viral clumsiness for the better part of this decade. But not any longer.