One of the most beautiful things about the sport of baseball is that it crosses global boundaries to unite people from all over the world. From the United States, where the game began, to England (follow UKBrewCrew for some great Brewers content from across the pond), to Asia, baseball has been a uniting factor for decades. Unfortunately, Steven A. Smith, of ESPN fame, has taken it upon himself to spread division in the unifying game. In a recent segment, Smith argued that MLB is in trouble because their most marketable star, Shohei Ohtani, does not speak the English language.
In a second video that he posted on his personal account, Smith attempted to “clarify” what he had said:
After this video was posted, Smith sent out another Tweet that hinted that the heat was getting to him. However, he stopped short of aplogizing.
Apparently, the powers that be must have said something to Smith because he did eventually Tweet out a long apology. In addition, he spent the opening minutes of his shows offering his apologies to those he offended.
The fact of the matter is that there is no one person who can look into the heart of Steven A. Smith and say with 100% certainty that he is sincere. Let us hope he is. Unfortunately, there are those out there who do not believe that what he said was wrong:
Note: Smith’s apology to the Nigerian community was for his xenophobic comments about how to pronounce the names for Nigeria’s national basketball team players. These comments also came yesterday.
Language Has Never Mattered
Steven A. Smith emphasized “this country” a good deal in his comments. Unfortunately, many people hold fast to the belief that “In American, we speak English.” Not only is this an xenophobic and racist belief, but it is simply not true. The United States of America is made up of millions of English speakers, this is true. However, it also has no national language. Not only do millions of Americans speak English, but millions more speak other languages as their primary language.
In addition, the United States would not have ever existed without the help of a man who did not speak English. In the infamous winter the George Washington spent at Valley Forge, he was visited by a man named Baron Friedrich von Steuben. von Steubon was from Prussia and spoke only German. Through an interpreter, he offered to train Washington’s troops, who were mostly farmers.
Washington gladly took him up on his offer, as Prussia had one of the greatest military reputations in the world. Surly, a Prussian officer would do wonders for his army. von Steuben, though, did not speak English. Nor did he speak French, the secondary language of many American officers. In the mornings, von Steubon dictated his orders for the day to an interpreter who translated them to French. Then, another translator wrote them out in English.
Despite the language barrier, von Steubon molded the American army into one that held its own against the mighty British Empire. When another officer approached Washington later, telling him that von Steuben had lied about his credentials and was, in fact, a homosexual, Washington responded by promoting von Steuben. Language did not matter then, and it certainly should not matter now.
American Players Have Been Marketable in Foreign Leagues
The idea that a player’s inability to speak a language should affect his or her marketability is absurd. Before becoming popular as a Milwaukee Brewers player, Eric Thames was the most popular baseball player in South Korea. Like many players who come to the United States, he learned the language of the country in which he played as best he could. So popular was he that even after he returned to Major League Baseball, he was still a pop culture icon in South Korea. Thames even appeared on the Korean Masked Singer television show!
Smith Ignored Ichiro’s Entire Career
The first great player to come over to MLB from Japan was Ichiro. He played the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners, who made him the face of the franchise for the better part of a decade. He won the AL MVP Award and Rookie of the Year in the same season in 2001. At the end of his 19-year career, he had accumulated 3,089 hits to go along with 1,278 he had in Japan.
Ichiro was beloved by baseball fans all over the world, not just in Seattle. He played the game with passion, and that is what fans want to see. It did not matter that he used an interpreter throughout his entire career in the United States. What mattered was that he was a great player and an even better teammate. By all accounts, Shohei Ohtani is the same way.
As mentioned previously, Smith has since apologized for his remarks. However, the fact that others believe he has nothing to be sorry for is an indictment on the state of this country. Opponents say “American First,” without fully knowing the story of America. People of all ethnicities, religions, sexualities, and languages have made major contributions to our history. It is time for us to highlight them more, celebrate them, and celebrate stars like Shohei Ohtani who make America’s national pastime great!
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