Editor’s Note: This article was written by Andrew Schwartz, a native of Washington D.C., and former college baseball player at the University of Rochester, who now resides in New Orleans. (Article edited by AJ Kaufman)
In 2005, Mark Buehrle helped me win my fantasy baseball league by going 16-8 with a 3.12 ERA in what was a career-defining season. That was the first time I actually took notice of him—on the basis of his statistical performance.
The next time Buehrle popped up in my field of vision was in February 2009 when the Chicago Tribune reported that Buehrle was considering an early retirement. Apparently Buerhle missed his wife and 18 month-old son so much that he began giving serious consideration to hanging up his cleats in the prime of his career.
After reading that, my perspective of Buerhle changed. I didn’t only respect him as a player; I respected him as a man. In fact, in February 2009, Buerhle represented the very antithesis of today’s typical professional athlete: a successful player who stays out of the media spotlight, and is a devoted family man. He was a man of a different era; a player who invoked memories of players like Jim Rice and Cal Ripken—men who defined their legacies by what they did off the field as much as by what they did on it.
But now, two years after that humbling and touching story, Buehrle has redefined his legacy…by destroying it.
In a recent article on MLB.com, Buehrle admitted that he and his wife would watch Philadelphia Eagles games, hoping that Michael Vick would “get hurt,” and that believed that “something bad needs to happen” to Vick. It wasn’t Tucker Carlson from last December, but close.
Despite his own love of killing animals ’for sport,’ Buehrle claims to be an avid “animal rights activist,” so his comments need to be read in context; however, the sheer ignorance and hypocrisy belying these comments are way too much to overcome. Consequently, I will now provide ashort, three-pronged rebuttal of Buerhle’s statements about Vick:
1) Vick has paid his debt to society.
In a recent interview, Buehrle defended his “hunting” of animals on the fact that the act of hunting is legal. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that Buehrle stands behind our nation’s legal system—the same legal system which has conclusively decided that Michael Vick has paid his debt to society.
Buehrle’s actions of apparently disagreeing with the determinations of our legal system, while concurrently using it as a shield to defend his own actions, seems hypocritical.
2) The “Culture” Defense.
After Buehrle’s initial comments about Vick surfaced, it was revealed that Buerhle enjoys hunting deer, ducks, and bears. When Buehrle was subsequently asked how he could have such animosity for Vick, when he himself kills animals, he responded with a cultural defense:
“Hunting is a sport…If that’s illegal, shame on my dad and my grandpa and his grandpa. It’s kind of been brought up throughout the history of America.”
In other words, Buehrle was brought up in a culture where hunting wasn’t only commonplace, it was part of everyday life.
There is a particularly interesting analogy to Buehrle’s comments regarding his lifelong experiences with hunting and Vick’s recent comments to the Los Angeles Times regarding his own lifelong experiences with dog-fighting:
Vick, who attended his first dog-fight as a 7-year old, reflected that “dog fighting was a part of [the] black culture” of his youth. Vick’s brother, Marcus, reiterated this notion by stating that when he and Vick grew up “[they] never knew there was nothing wrong with it.”
3) Vick’s Contribution to the Cause
In addition to paying his debt to society (and we know many athletes have done worse and received far lesser punishments) and losing all of his money, Vick’s contributed money to fighting animal cruelty, regularly volunteers his time, and continuously gives public speeches to students and others about making good choices, and being kind to animals.
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