On Friday, Deadspin came out with an article with a similar title to mine, positing that ESPN’s Keith Law — baseball Insider, scout, former writer for Baseball Prospectus, former assistant to the GM for the Toronto Blue Jays — had his Twitter account suspended for defending evolution to colleague/Hall-of-Fame pitcher/creationist-whacko, Curt Schilling. I recall the back-and-forth, which didn’t appear to be all that violent even at the time, because it was only about 10 days ago and because Keith Law is one of only 58 people I follow on Twitter.
Now, okay, since you’re reading this you probably have a pretty decent idea of what I’m about: I don’t claim a political party since politics aren’t my bag, but constantly my blog revolves around a certain sense of equality… for the different sexes… for gay people… for minorities… I strive to be objective with everything. Likewise, Keith Law champions these ideas. It sounds kind of stupid to say I’ve learned a lot through following sports, but more so it’s the people I follow, like Keith, who have helped expand my horizons on various ideas.
I’ve followed his work since he was writing for Prospectus, back when he used to make weekly appearances on ESPNews. Along with people like Joe Sheehan, I consider Keith Law to be one of the most influential personalities inhabiting my (sports) universe. He is the lone reason I signed up for ESPN Insider at something like $30 a year.
So when the company he works for decided to suspend him, naturally there was some Twitter backlash from a lot of the people I follow. Of course, ESPN are fucking obsessed with suspending anyone with the balls to ever say anything actually worthwhile, but this was especially egregious since we’re talking about fucking evolution. C’mon, man.
Deadspin emailed ESPN for comment on the situation, and the mothership offered this response:
Keith’s Twitter suspension had absolutely nothing to do with his opinions on the subject.
It makes me wonder, within the confines of my conspiracy-theory mind, if it was actually something else. (Probably not.) All I can think of, or, should I say, all I can point to, is a transcript from a chat he did on October 30th. In it, a questioner named Alex from San Jose asked about the San Francisco Giants, how they’ve actively been blocking the Oakland Athletics from moving to a new stadium, and relating it to good things happening to bad people (since they won their 3rd World Series in the last five years).
Good things happen to bad people in sports all the time. Ray Lewis was accused of murder, pled guilty to two counts of obstruction, and a year after the incident was the Super Bowl MVP. I understand your ire, but it’s just part of life.
This seemed a bit out of line even for Law, who has the type of clout to be able to speak his mind whenever he feels like it, which is why he does. But no one is untouchable, as we learned on Friday. The insinuation, obviously, is that Ray Lewis — who is another of his colleagues at ESPN — is a bad person who has benefitted from good things happening to him. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Law — how could you disagree with facts? — but above most things, ESPN never wants its personalities to pick fights with other personalities. Much of the world forgets about Lewis being involved in a murder after he won a Super Bowl and went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career, a lot like much of the world has already forgotten about the Marlins being a corrupt organization now that they’ve given a shiny $325 million contract to Giancarlo Stanton, but the devil is in the details.
ESPN denies Law’s suspension was related to disputing Schilling’s ridiculous creationist beliefs, but if it isn’t that, what could it possibly be? Sure, it could be his Ray Lewis comment, but the timeline makes absolutely no sense: It’s been almost a month since that chat took place. Major organizations simply don’t retroactively suspend people like that, at least you wouldn’t think. If they did in this specific case, it just means whomever the editors are for these writers are lazy and it wasn’t brought to the attention of the higher-ups until very recently. Again, I don’t really buy that scenario.
No, what this comes down to is smart business for ESPN. Curt Schilling is a legendary pitcher, particularly in the postseason — he pitched with the bloody fucking sock, that’s all you need to know — and Keith Law is a stat nerd who’s made a living incorporating newfangled concepts like Wins Above Replacement with his scouting background. Ray Lewis is a Super Bowl champion, future Hall-of-Fame middle linebacker, and Keith Law is still a stat nerd who writes for nerds like me.
Big businesses are always going to side with the individuals who are more valuable to the company. That’s how it should be. Although it is far from true for people like me, who consume everything Keith Law writes and says with a passion, people like Schilling and Lewis are far more valuable to ESPN than Law is.
This isn’t even a conflict between Creationism and evolution; if you deny the latter you deny science and logic and probably aren’t reading this right now. The conflict is the people discussing the conflict: Keith Law caters to a niche audience, a smaller crowd that’s hungry for the currency of knowledge and information, while Schilling and Lewis offer universal appeal to those that would rather not have to think too much about the conclusions they arrive at.
Which do you care more about?
ESPN have clearly made their decision.