(OutKick) It’s July 4th, a day when Americans from all different backgrounds take a day to celebrate our good fortune to all live in the greatest country in the history of the world.
Unless, that is, you work at ESPN, when July 4th represents an opportunity for you to trot out a woke albatross of a column on the front page of your site arguing that America is awful.
I haven’t been writing as much at Outkick of late because I’m working on a new book, but today’s ESPN July 4th column was such a perfect distillation of everything wrong with sports in America — and ESPN in particular — that I couldn’t resist sitting down and writing this column before I head out to the beach with my kids.
Before I systematically destruct today’s woke ESPN column, some background: this column was written by Howard Bryant, a man currently being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to opine on sports for ESPN, despite having no discernible talent whatsoever. That’s fine, it’s a testament to the greatness of American exceptionalism that no talent chumps like Bryant can make a boat load of money in sports media despite having no ability in writing, radio or TV.
But while Bryant’s fealty to woke politics is all too common at ESPN, Bryant is unique in one way: he’s been previously arrested for assaulting his wife in public, in front of his six year old son no less, and also charged with assaulting a police officer who arrived to protect his wife, after he was observed choking her in public. Bryant, a black man married to a white woman he was accused of choking in public, initially offered as his defense that racism was to blame for his arrest before pleading the charges down to six months of probation. Nevertheless you’d think someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year despite (allegedly) choking his wife and attacking a police officer and pleading down the charges with six months probation, might be inclined to think America is an incredibly forgiving place. After all, does Disney employ that many (alleged) wife and police assaulters? Not to my knowledge.
But, alas, despite the forgiving nature of a country that has made a woke imbecile like Bryant fairly wealthy compared to the average American, Bryant flails away impotently for thousands and thousands of words without ever managing to strike any target, before collapsing in a final spasm of incompetence.
We will return to these facts in a moment. But first, let’s begin at the top of ESPN.com. The tagline at the top of ESPN.com is “Serving sports fans. Anytime. Anywhere.” That’s not my tagline, that’s their own. That’s the reason they exist, their statement of purpose. As you read this systemic destruction of this woke garbage ESPN published on July 4th, I want you to ask yourself: how does this piece serve sports fans in any way?
Okay, now to the column, which is titled: “Baseball, barbecue and losing freedom this Fourth of July.”
The column was published at 6:55 am eastern on July 4th, meaning it was planned for weeks, maybe months, to be published as a feature piece on this particular day. It has likely been read by many editors at ESPN and refined to this jumbled mess. That is, as awful as this column is, it was probably, at one point or another, even worse. This is, in essence, a polished turd.
The opening of the column is a meandering wistful reminiscence about July 4th’s past, Bryant literally begins a paragraph arguing July 4th was the best day of the year in his childhood.
“July 4th was the best day of the year. Everything was centered on family. In some ways it was even better than Christmas because the entire family showed up — the Fourth was a de facto family reunion. The massive barbecue, the pool at one uncle’s house, even though you nearly drowned in it not once, but twice. All the cousins. The older ones who brought the cherry bombs and bottle rockets, the younger ones like you who were content with a strip of firecrackers. The Boston fireworks displays at the Esplanade, or later, at Stephens Field in Plymouth. The touch football games. The math reminds you just how young everybody was. When you were 40, your boy was in preschool. When your mother turned 40, you were a freshman in college.”
Since Bryant was born in 1968, this dates these best July 4th’s ever as occurring in the 1970’s and 1980’s. For those who have even a rudimentary knowledge of history, Bryant’s wistful recollections encompass Watergate, a president’s resignation, the highest inflation since Biden under Jimmy Carter, and the landslide election of Ronald Reagan, twice. It also includes the Cold War with Russia and boycotts in both 1980 and 1984 of the Olympics by either the Soviet Union or the United States. My point in bringing all this up is simply to reflect that far from everything being perfect, the 1970’s and the 1980’s were filled with political tumult and difficulties as well. Yet America was great then in Bryant’s mind.
Bryant’s nostalgic reveries of of July 4th’s past even includes a 1983 holiday game between the Yankees and Red Sox, when he would have been 14 or 15 years old. Bryant believes that 1983 game, squarely in the middle of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, was near perfection. Up to this point in the column, that is, for several hundred words, he’s been fond of July 4th.
Then, out of nowhere, he suddenly pivots to the present day and writes this:
“Last month, Major League Baseball and its partners again released Independence Day-themed baseball hats that each of the 30 teams will wear. This year’s version features a flush of stars across the front against a blue and white backdrop, offset with a shaggy shock of red. The Toronto Blue Jays, located in a country that does not celebrate American independence, were also issued the caps — even though the Canadian flag does not contain stars nor the color blue. Public outrage prompted a redesign of the Toronto caps. Next is the USA-themed socks, the marketing, the freedom-inspired spikes, gloves, wristbands, the inevitable paeans to the armed forces.
By now, we’re all numb to the spectacle. At least publicly, the emphasis on the Fourth of July shifted from family to symbols years ago — Sept. 11 did that. Two decades of paid patriotism has made it ever harder to center the Fourth on reconnecting with your favorite aunts and uncles. No backyard barbecue and badminton game could compete with 20 years of military tributes and unquestioned nationalism. You think back to Righetti. Cosmetically, there was nothing about that July 4, 1983, that said patriotism. All Yankee Stadium said that day 39 years ago was baseball. Ninety-four degrees. Sox-Yankees. The Stadium looked as it did every other day. The crowd came because it was July 4, a Monday day game — a great day for baseball and family — and, along with Bat Day, the biggest giveaway day of the year: Yankee Cap Day.” (I added the italics here because it appears to be Bryant acknowledging sports were better before they went political, which is an irony he doubtless missed given the rest of this column.)
This pivot is fascinating because Bryant is directly arguing that the 1970’s and 1980’s July 4th celebrations weren’t about patriotism, that it was only after 9/11 that the 4th of July became draped in American symbolism and patriotism. This is, quite clearly, 100% wrong. The very reason the 1983 baseball game Bryant loved so much was being played in the afternoon at all on Monday July 4th was because it was July 4th. Crazily, Bryant is upset that American teams are celebrating America in red, white and blue uniforms and that Americans responded to a 9/11 attack on our nation by embracing patriotism more fervently than before.
This is the beginning of the column becoming unhinged.