I can't imagine that I can bring any news to this issue, as it's been covered very well. From the beginning - by @james_in_to who broke the story via his flickr feed, to the official Blue Jays website, where it has been confirmed that Alex Anthopoulos will hold a press conference with Escobar, John Farrell and coach Luis Rivera in attendance. There are plenty of reaction pieces out there, including the blog post that took most of the words out of my mouth by The Tao of Stieb. This is my reaction.
Yunel Escobar did something really stupid.
There is chatter on Twitter as to whether or not we the fans, and to a certain extent, the media, understand what context Yunel's eye-black was meant to be taken in. It's not as though it was a vague statement. It did not read "2.9% APR Financing" or "Raspberry Jelly on Toast", to which we would blurt out a collective "buh?". It read "Tu ere maricon", and roughly translated from Spanish, that reads "You are a faggot". That does not need a heaping helping of context, if you ask me.
Further to the context argument, there are some saying that the word "maricon" can mean "pussy" or "pansy", as if that downgrades the severity of the term. Other comments say that gay men in Spanish speaking countries call each other that all the time, so it's no big deal. To me, hate is hate, and it is not right. Whether it's Mike Milbury decrying the "pansification" of fighting in the NHL three years ago, or an elected official requesting a team silence a player because he supports same-sex marriage, there is no place for intolerance, degradation or ignorance in sport.
Even if the original Spanish phrase carries a different connotation than the English translation, one can not be shocked at the outrage this has sparked. Wouldn't someone in the organization who speaks both languages conclude that the English speaking media and fan base would not 'get the joke' and stop it in its tracks?
That is the biggest issue I have with this incident. The fact that no one stopped Yunel from taking the field. It's been widely regarded that professional athletes are not the most sensitive people on the face of the earth (Remember John Rocker?), so it's no shock that someone wrote something so ignorant on the eye-black, whether it was Yunel himself, or a teammate or staff member. What I don't understand, and I hope it is clarified to some extent in the upcoming press conference, is how they - the players, managers, coaches, staff - could see the offending phrase on his face, and let him go on to the field in front of thousands of fans and plenty of cameras, James' included.
The optimist in me wishes that it was seen by the staff, documented, and they let him take the field in the hopes that the umps would see it and wring him up, leading to his "flu-like symptoms" on Sunday afternoon.
The pessimist in me sees a clubhouse full of jocks joking around with each other, daring him to take the field with a slur on his cheeks, because, you know, that's what it's like in a clubhouse, bro.
Major League Baseball is investigating (as reported by Jerry Crasnick), and hopefully this is not dismissed as a 'boys will be boys' case. MLB has a history of letting more egregious things slide (see Young, Delmon and Cabrera, Miguel), and while an outright suspension will be drastic, I don't think it is the right course of action. The team - not just Yunel - needs to partake in some sort of an education program, and these insensitive comments and actions need to be worked out of the clubhouse.
And there you have it, my admittedly disjointed take on Yunel Escobar and the very stupid thing he did. I'll probably post a follow up after the press conference.