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Nothing any regular Hall of Famer wouldn’t jot down between innings.

This week Alex Rodriguez, retired Major League Baseball player and human steroid depository, made his debut in the broadcast booth. In typical A-Rod fashion, what should have been an easy home run became a bizarre scandal, with sharp-eyed viewers zooming in on his notebook only to see cryptic references to “birth control,” “baby”, and most-tantalizingly, “pull out stuff.” What all of this means, and why Rodriguez had this on his mind rather than a meaningless May baseball game, remains a mystery, but the other question we’re all wondering is, what else is in that notebook? The Center for Poor Karma & Pain’s crack researchers and spies are, as always, on the job and offer this exclusive look beyond the news.

p. 23 – “Where are my taco-flavoured kisses?”

p. 30 – “Find out: how many home runs wd potential baby have to hit to pass Griffeys for all-time father/son record?”

p. 37 – “A-Rod2 or 2Rod?”

p. 41 – “are purple lips hereditary or recessive?”

p. 43 – “move Phil Rizzutto to back of monument park? who is more beloved? hit more home runs than him after all”

p. 51 – “why can’t I have everything and Jeter have nothing?”

These are the names of actual baseball players on the Texas Rangers roster in 2015:

Rougned (Roogie, Stinky) Odor

Stolmy Pimentel

Keone Kela

Tanner Scheppers

Okay, I have to admit, “Stinky” Odor is one of the best nicknames of all time, right up there with Johnny “Ugly” Dickshot. Well done.

cincinnati redsChicago Cubs – There was a time when baseball was America’s pastime and the sport held the allegiance of all right-thinking people, but football has since supplanted it in the hearts of an increasingly conservative populace. In a more innocent age, Cubs were a perfectly acceptable mascot, but football demanded more machismo, and so it was that Chicago’s team became the Bears, in an effort to one-up the beloved baseball team. Bears were big, burly, and tough, while Cubs–or worse still, Cubbies–were derided as less manly. Of course, after the sexual revolution of the 1970s, the irony of big, hairy men who rolled around in the grass together and were prone to patting each other on their butts being seen as exemplars of heterosexual toughness became apparent. The Cubs, meanwhile, remain simple adorable losers, with little sexual identity whatsoever.

Milwaukee Brewers – During Prohibition, Milwaukee, which had long been known as a centre of beer production, struggled mightily. Looking to save their businesses, the breweries diversified their products to include colas and root beers. Al Capone took advantage of the situation and arranged for the smuggling of illicit booze into Chicago from nearby Milwaukee. Always eager to conceal his criminal operations behind a veneer of legitimate business, Capone owned a company that supplied public school cafeterias with soft drinks. In 1927 his entire operation was almost brought to its knees when alcohol meant for speakeasies was accidentally shipped to grammar schools, resulting in mass drunkenness amongst Chicago’s 5 to 8-year olds. Capone managed to shift the blame to the Milwaukee breweries, which were shut down for the remainder of Prohibition, and the entire city, by extension, was vilified as a den of iniquity. In Chicago, ever since, a “Milwaukee Brewer” has meant someone who serves alcohol to minors.

St. Louis Cardinals – Catholics were once viewed with as much suspicion in America as Muslims and Scientologists are today. In fact, the main targets of the Ku Klux Klan after African Americans were Catholics. St. Louis, for a time the biggest city on the Frontier, and the Gateway to the West, once had two baseball teams: the Browns and the still-extant Cardinals. Much like Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow, the teams garnered support from opposite sides of the spiritual divide. The pious and unprepossessing Browns were the choice of dour Protestants, while the Cardinals, as much as they tried to hide their papal allegiance behind their bird mascot, were Catholic to the marrow. For the many born-again Christians who don’t believe Catholics are Christians, the Cardinals still represent a fifth column in the heart of the Mid-West.

Pittsburgh Pirates – At the height of their success in the nineteen-oughts, the Pirates were the preeminent base stealers in baseball, but off the diamond were notorious ladies men, apt to steal your best gal from under your nose. This reputation took a severe hit in the 1970s with the rise to prominence of the homely Kent Tekulve, and was well and truly put to rest with the addition of the monstrously ugly Zane Smith in the 1980s.

Cincinnati Reds – Dirty Commies. Still, twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall? You betcha.

national league eastNew York Mets – In what seems to be a New York tradition, with basketball’s Knicks being short for “Knickerbockers,” football’s Jets having evolved from “Jetsams,” and hockey’s Rangers shortening their name from “Rangerettes” in 1962, baseball’s Mets team name is really the Metropolitans, which is about as hard to fit on a jersey as “Saltalamacchia.” But the full name is also avoided because of its association with the sort of stuffy, pretentious, and pedantic New Yorkers portrayed in Whit Stillman’s 1990 film Metropolitan, who are much more likely to be Yankees fans.

Atlanta Braves – This is the only team name in Major League Baseball with no negative associations. Absolutely nothing offensive here… what’s that? The “Tomahawk Chop”? <cringes>

Philadelphia Phillies – Most people assume that the name “Phillies” is simply a diminutive for the city in which they play, but most people are wrong, so very, very wrong. Philadelphia may be the City of Brotherly Love, but it’s always been a union town, top to bottom. In their early history, the Phillies played second fiddle to the Athletics and struggled to succeed on the field and at the turnstiles. Looking for any edge, while at the same time always trying to keep costs low, the team excelled at locking out any player who even hinted at holding out for more money, and filling their roster spot with strikebreakers. In 1887, the team fielded an entire team of “fill-ins,” who may have been horrible players, but cost very little. The nickname stuck, eventually evolving into “Phillies,” and losing its connection with scab labour.

Miami Marlins – As the nascent United States expanded and sought to exert its control over the North American continent, one of its most frequent opponents were the various Native tribes that predated the arrival of European settlers, including the Seminoles in the area that was to become Florida. Young and inexperienced soldiers made up the bulk of the troops sent to pacify the newly-acquired territory, and they were particularly brutal, especially the infantry, many of whom were accused of zealously bayoneting their opponents, even in cold blood as they kneeled to surrender. Similarly, the modern Marlins baseball team is known to steal signs.

Washington Nationals – Although Washington, D.C. had a long, if not proud, baseball tradition (“first in war, first in peace, last in the American League” aptly describes the futility of the city’s teams), the city had been without a Major League team since the Senators left in the 1970s. Although there was general excitement at the prospect of the return of the national pastime to the nation’s capital, it came at a time of rising xenophobia and protectionism, and many fans were less than impressed that the team chosen to represent Washington would be a foreign import: Montréal’s struggling Expos. The decision to ignore history and name the relocated team “Nationals”–rather than the historic “Senators”–has led many disillusioned fans to decry their team as “Foreign Nationals” and “Immigrants in the Ootfield” (an inaccurate and unfunny attempt to make fun of supposed Canadian accents), particularly when they’ve struggled to win games.

YankeesEveryone is familiar with team names in the world of sports that are horribly offensive to one group or another today, in our more enlightened times. An example is football’s Washington Redskins, who are under a great deal of pressure to change their name, since it is seen as an affront to Native Americans. But not all team names are so overtly racist and offensive; some are more subtle or have connotations that are usually overlooked today. In fact, almost every team in baseball has a name that, if its history were known, would elicit just as much shock and opprobrium as “Redskins.”

In an ongoing series, we will examine the history and origin of each Major League Baseball team name. The results might shock you. They will definitely rock you. First up, the American League East.

Toronto Blue Jays – Most people assume the team is named after the distinctive bird, a common sight during long Canadian winters, but the truth is more surprising. In the 1920s, Yugoslavia was a new country and spelled its name “Jugoslavija” on its postage stamps. Slavic immigrants to Canada were commonly referred to as “J” or “Jays” as a way to mock their home country’s spelling, which appeared odd to the Anglo-Saxon establishment of Toronto. Further insult was heaped upon the slur by adding “blue” in front, a reference to the predominantly male immigrants, who had to leave their wives in the old country, and who it was implied had no access to sex, since Canadian women would have nothing to do with them. The term is related to the slang “blue balls” or groinal pain caused by lack of sex. Over time the racist overtones of “Blue Jays” was lost, but the name stuck in the public consciousness, and was bestowed on the expansion baseball team in 1977.

New York Yankees – The term for Americans living in the American Northeast has a long history, but the team was actually named after an early manager’s frequent use of the phrase “yankee my crankee” in his stories about traveling the country in the early years of organized baseball, and anecdotes about his incessant whoring.

Baltimore Orioles – Early pitchers in the area were renowned for their control, and it was boasted that they could throw the ball through an area as small as a “glory hole” at will. “Oriole” is an archaic Chesapeake Bay dialect term for the same.

Boston Red Sox – Stephen Crane famously wrote about blood being a symbol of “the red badge of courage” for soldiers in the American Civil War. Boston baseball teams were already a dominant force in the sport as early as the 1860s, and one of the best teams christened itself “Red Socks” and later “Red Sox” to honour its players who had served bravely in war, and bore the wounds to prove it. But there is a more pejorative meaning, of a soldier who wounds himself on purpose in order to escape duty, and this is the sense which has been used by fans of other teams over the years, suggesting that the Red Sox are weak and cowardly, and lack the heart to win. This has been somewhat mitigated by their three World Series wins since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays – Although the team is named  the devil ray, a fish common to the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, a “Ray” is also an offensive term which traces its origins to criticism of Ray Liotta, the actor most likely to play characters with his own first name or slight variations. See roles as “Ray,” “Gray,” and “Roy.” The implication is of an actor so stupid he can only respond to his own name, even while filming. Fans in Anaheim and Los Angeles are known to chant “Ray-ay” and shout “Hey, Ray!” during visits by Tampa Bay, in efforts to distract the players, which is held to be uncommonly easy to do.

Josh HamiltonFormer MVP Josh Hamilton is having a difficult first year with the Los Angeles Angels, with whom he signed a 5-year contract in the offseason. The power-hitting outfielder isn’t hitting for power and is striking out at a much higher pace than ever before. The team, featuring perennial All-Star Albert Pujols and rising talent Mike Trout, and expected to challenge for the American League West crown, has tried moving Hamilton to other spots in the batting order, and has now given him a day off to “clear the cobwebs” and regroup, but nothing has helped his struggles. His manager, Mike Scioscia, is confident that Hamilton will sort things out, saying “I think he just needs to exhale a little bit. Maybe just take that step backwards to get to his goal of swinging the bat the way he can quicker.”

For his part, Hamilton thinks he has the answer, even if no one else wants to come out and say it: cocaine or, at the very least, marijuana or alcohol. “Look, I know Mike [Scioscia] is a great manager–a real players’ manager–with a lot of experience, but I think I know my body pretty well, and what my body needs is drugs. I’ve tried to fight it for years, to the point where I thought abstinence was the way to go… and even when I had relapses I was convinced that with the love and support of those around me I could kick the habit.”

Hamilton, who was banned from baseball during his minor league days and saw his Major League career delayed, has become a poster child for the evils of drugs, and a strong proponent of just saying “no.”  He has credited his family, friends, and his faith for turning his life around. But now he’s calling all of that into question. “I used to think that God had a plan for me, and that was to stay clean, be a role model, and live to praise Him. But I’ve started to see things a little differently. Don’t get me wrong–I still live to praise God–it’s just that part about ‘clean’ that I’m not sure about… I’ve been seeing signs telling me to loosen up a bit. Like when people tell me I need to ‘take a step backwards’… that’s a hint, right? And when they say I need to ‘exhale’ they really mean ‘inhale’ I think, like with marijuana.”

He also says that the reason for his struggles may be that he’s seeing a lot of off-speed pitches–the second most in the Majors–but wants to “give the cocaine a try first.”

Blue states are where the action is!

Sports are integral to the American experience. Baseball is famously “America’s pastime” and the Super Bowl is the biggest game in the world. Basketball, though invented by a Canadian, is a quintessentially American game that is rapidly expanding across the globe. And as much as Canadians will tell you that hockey defines our national identity, there are far more NHL teams in the United States than in Canada, and they’ve had much more success than Canadian teams over the last twenty years.

Many pundits divide America into Red and Blue states, but if there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s their love of sports. It crosses all boundaries: class, race, geography. Or does it? It’s interesting to take a look at the distribution of major league sports teams in the United States, and what it may mean for the country.

The “Big Four” sports are generally agreed upon to be Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey (even though college football or basketball are arguably bigger draws than hockey). These are the biggest professional leagues in America. There are 113 major league teams in the United States divided between these four sports, an average of more than two teams per state. But would it surprise you to know that all of these 113 teams are located in just 25 states, plus the District of Columbia? It’s true, which means fully half the states have no major sports team whatsoever. The concentration of teams in larger markets is well-known, but the fact that there aren’t more outliers dotted around the country in smaller population centres means that many Americans don’t have a local team to root for, in any sport. As a proud Montanan baseball fan, which team do you support? The closest teams are in Seattle, Colorado, or Minnesota, not even in neighbouring states. Here are the 25 states that have no major league sports teams:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Maine
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Vermont
  5. Alaska
  6. Hawaii
  7. Connecticut
  8. Rhode Island
  9. Delaware
  10. Virginia
  11. West Virginia
  12. South Carolina
  13. Kentucky
  14. Alabama
  15. Mississippi
  16. Nebraska
  17. Iowa
  18. Arkansas
  19. Kansas
  20. North Dakota
  21. South Dakota
  22. Wyoming
  23. Montana
  24. Idaho
  25. Nevada

You might say that the divide between have and have-not states looks fair, being split 50/50, but look even further. Of the 113 major league teams, fully 48 of them are based in just five states: New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and Texas. But here’s where it gets interesting from a political perspective: only 36 teams reside in states that vote predominantly Republican. And of the 25 states that have no teams whatsoever, 15 of them–or 60%–are Republican strongholds. Just 15 states hold 77 of the nation’s major teams… and those states vote overwhelmingly Democrat.

So what do Republicans have against sports in America? Why have they left it to the Democrats and their Blue states to dominate sports?Are they too busy shooting guns, stopping a woman’s right to choose, and having tea parties to enjoy well-executed double-plays, fast breaks, Hail Mary passes, and goals in the five-hole? Why have the Republicans fallen down in providing a local sports experience for their hard-working, family-values constituents?

WHY DO THE REPUBLICANS HATE SPORTS?

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