Defining Obscene

You have probably heard about the recent contract agreement between the Miami Marlins of major league baseball and Giancarlo Stanton the baseball player. The contract was for $325 million over the next thirteen years. Stanton is a very talented player who is most renown for being hit in the eye by a baseball last season and missing some of the season while still managing to hit .288 with 37 home runs and 105 rbi. That’s impressive and it is certainly the case that the Marlins are wise to sign the man to a long-range contract. But the fact that this contract makes Stanton the highest paid athlete on the continent raises some eyebrows. In a recent interview, he was asked if he was a bit embarrassed to be making the equivalent of $165,000 a day for the next thirteen years. His response brought about the following attempt at wit:

The man asked if he was embarrassed by the money, he being Giancarlo Stanton, who at that moment sat at the left shoulder of Jeffrey Loria [owner of the Marlins]. Still, the man in the audience remained laser-focused on Stanton and not Loria.

Embarrassed, he said, as though Loria had panhandled $325 million on a street corner in South Beach, which, OK, he sort of did, but he didn’t have to. That was Loria’s choice. And that was Miami’s choice. If not the residents, then the city leaders, and now the city has an honest-to-goodness “generational player” (unless, disgusted, he were to leave) to go along with a lovely ballpark the taxpayers carried in on their backs.

The game is rich. The owners – this one, in particular – are rich. And the man asked Giancarlo Stanton, someone who actually hits the home runs and catches the gappers, if this weren’t all so embarrassing. To, you know, Giancarlo Stanton. Personally.

To which Stanton opened his eyes wide, confirming that that fastball had indeed missed his eye socket, and he smiled, showing teeth still connected to his gums in spite of that fastball.

“Embarrassing to me?” Stanton didn’t so much ask as hold at arm’s length between his thumb and forefinger. “Nah, not exactly.”

.Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton smiles after his news conference Wednesday at Marlins Park. (USA TODAY Sports)

(Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton smiles after his news conference Wednesday at Marlins Park. (USA TODAY …)

The fact that Stanton was not in the least embarrassed and, in fact, didn’t seem to understand the question, must give us pause. Is it possible that we are coming close to understanding what the word “obscene” means? I realize that the word usually applies to works of art or other visual items that we find repulsive, but I suggest that the word has wider application — as in this case. I mean, after all, $165,000 a DAY for playing a game.

Given the fact that the highest salary on the Marlins prior to this contract was for $6.5 million and that the lowest salary on the team is a mere $500,000 one might suspect there could arise some tensions on that team in the future. But, more to the point, there are over 100 million homeless people on this planet, at last count, and 3 million unemployed people in America alone at a time when the average annual income of all Americans (including the Koch brothers who skew the figures a bit) is $25, 567. In the face of such widespread poverty and suffering, where the average Joe who is expected to pay for the tickets to see this man play a game will work at one or two jobs while this man drinks a $20,000.00 bottle of Champaign to celebrate his new contract, the truly depressing thing to note is that Stanton doesn’t grasp the fact that he might have the decency to be a bit embarrassed.

I know, the Marlins didn’t have to pay the man this kind of money and the average Joe doesn’t have to pay for the tickets to see him play. But these things happen on a regular basis in a country were the Congress can’t make a decision not based on corporate influence and the planet is in serious jeopardy of irreparable damage due to our demand for creature comforts that may, or may not, be necessary. Something’s wrong here.

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8 thoughts on “Defining Obscene

  1. Makes his teammates feel special. Last time I checked this was a team sport. So, every time he fails to hustle, strikes out looking, or mishandles a play, he will be scrutinized.
    Mickey Mantle was a great player, but he also played with Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and so on. When Willie Mays had a great supporting cast like Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, and Orlando Cepeda, his team won. Otherwise, they did not.

    I was thinking of the book and movie Money Ball, where cast offs who did a lot of little things well, were rather inexpensively assembled and did very well in this team sport. Even the Marlins’ World Series successes were based on pitching staffs assembled through its minor leagues. When they won, people left as there was only so much money.

    This bet they have made will likely not be successful for all of the reasons above.

    • Well said. Those who sign huge contracts frequently fall on their faces the following year. We shall see if this happens here. But I know you, of all people, are horrified by the larger problem here. Thanks, BTG.

      • Thanks. Maybe if he or someone with a big contract would set up a foundation with much of the money to invest in the community. I know some do, but it would make a statement if the contract was worded that way.

  2. Well said….something is wrong here. Given the apathetic free -fall our country has embraced and the personal and/or corporate entitlement mantra many uphold…obscene doesn’t cover what is really wrong here…
    Thank you, Hugh, for the use of your platform to speak my piece.

  3. Hugh, you’re right on. This so emblematic of modern America, and capitalist America. And not emblematic in good ways. It speaks as well to the skewed priorities of the American city, themselves caught up in capitalistic competition among one another. The city of Miami built thus huge, costly new stadium three years ago to keep the Marlins from moving. Then, they spent millions on a batch of free agents and manager Ozzie Guillen to try to invezt in the the team that would play in that new stadium. Within a year, that effort imploded. The Marlins didn’t win, Ozzie shot his mouth off if ant , was fired and the team traded away most of its big-name players to much criticism. Now, round two: the Stanton signing. It is so debatable whether new ball parks improve the quality of life in cities. There is a lot of skepticism that the parks in places like Cleveland or Baltimore – while nice attractions – have not had the lasting economic impact it was hoped. Cities want to be better than each other? Invest in schools, hospitals, affordable housing, etc. The only saving grace out of this will be if Stanton starts a large foundation for kids and schools, like LeBoron James. But given his news conference comments, I wouldn’t expect it.

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