To the many zeroes on his pay cheque and his scorecards, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke added another this week. He said he sensed “zero excitement” about the Dodgers’ impending trip to Sydney for their season opener next month. “There just isn’t any excitement to it,” he told ESPN. “I can’t think of one reason to be excited for it.”
Grainke’s lack of excitement excited a surplus of it here. Organisers of the ambitious Sydney venture dashed off a “please explain” to the Dodgers, though Grainke’s utterance could hardly have been more self-explanatory.
LA replied with an explanation of Greinke, saying that he was an “endearing contrarian”, but more to the point, a famous stickler for routine, and Sydney trip would throw his out. LA said it would take no action against Greinke. Incidentally, said president Stan Karsten, the rest of the club could not get onto the plane to Sydney fast enough.
Now that the wave of non-excitement has passed, a question remains: which was Greinke’s greater offence, to speak his mind, or that its contents betrayed massive indifference to the idea of visiting Australia?
The sportsman who talks honestly stands to run foul of a society-wide double standard, which insists that public figures speak candidly and reserves the right to take offence when they do. Think of Dave Warner’s “scared eyes” assessment of England’s batsmen after the first Test of the Ashes summer. Morally, what would have been worse, his bluntness, or another platitude, which is a white-ish form of lie?
Should Grainke have called it as he saw it, or sugar-coated – that is, falsified – his sentiments to propitiate commercial interests? Of course, there are limits to free speech – taste for one, the risk of harm to innocents for another – but Grainke did not stray anywhere near those.
Evidently, he did hurt Australia’s pride. Looking through the telescope from our end, it is impossible to see anywhere else he and the Dodgers might have gone to play. Looking from their end, Australia is one of dozens of places they might have fetched up, most a great deal closer to the US than a 15-hour plane ride away.
Strange as it might seem to us in our isolation, not everyone else in the world has a fetish for crocodiles, koalas and kangaroos, let alone Kangaroos. Not every Mohammed is prepared to come to our mountain.
By and large, professional sportspeople travel disinterestedly, because they have to. The Dodgers are coming to Australia not especially for Australia’s sake, but for baseball’s. Australia, Azerbaijan, whatever. Even then, they are hedging their bets, as they look likely to leave behind their first-choice pitcher Clayton Kershaw, so as not to overtax him with hundreds of games to come.
Greinke has been subjected to a double standard doubled, reproving him for speaking honestly, and for honestly dissing Australia. He is coming anyway, because he is contractually bound. “It’s a baseball thing. It’s an ownership thing, spreading stuff around,” he said. “That’s what it’s for and it’s for the greater good of baseball.”
Hopefully, he will enjoy himself. In the meantine, he has already served a third self-contradictory purpose. By professing disinterest in the Dodgers’ pair of games in Australia, he has stirred up a great deal more interest in them than could have been expected more than three weeks out.