Friday, March 11, 2016

No chewing tobacco at the ballparks? Or more public attention for the pols?

Endorsements baseball would just as soon see wither away
There’s something about the sight of political people getting involved with sports in any means that always seems to be self-aggrandizing.

It’s almost like they want some public attention, and figure that being seen in the presence of a professional athlete or talking about sports somehow will get them more publicity than they ever could get by addressing an issue such as the zoning laws.

WHICH MAKES ME think that 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke feels the need to get himself some newspaper ink – and all the television and Internet attention that naturally follows newspaper coverage. He is doing so with his latest amendment concerning chewing tobacco.

Supposedly next week, the City Council will consider a long-proposed measure by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to raise the smoking age, so to speak, in Chicago to 21.

Burke is playing off this by coming up with an amendment that would add on a provision making it illegal for chewing tobacco to be used at any baseball stadium within the city limits.

Not for any Chicago White Sox or Chicago Cubs ballplayer, or any other major league ballplayer when their teams visit Chicago.

Will baseball fans someday wonder ...
THIS WOULD BE Burke’s contribution to the baseball season, since he admits in news reports that he wants this measure implemented into law in time for the early April opening of the baseball season.

No more sights of ballplayers with a traditional chaw in their cheek, or spitting into a cup when they think no one’s watching. And no more exposure to the tobacco that can cause various forms of oral cancer.

Or more likely, Burke getting his name in news reports that will spread across the country – as he becomes the politico who wants to do away with chewing tobacco at the ballpark.

Now personally, I don’t smoke. I also have thought that chaws and the sight of tobacco “juice” (actually, it's spit) is kind of disgusting. It is a ballplayer habit that they’re better off without.

... why old-time ballplayers all had the bulging cheeks?
ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is correct when he tells the Sun-Times that many ballplayers use chewing tobacco out of habit, and that many ballplayers will take this ban as an interference with their daily ballpark routines that get them through the 162-game season.

But it’s not like this proposed change is something radical for professional baseball. In recent years, baseball officials themselves have been trying to reduce the use of chewing tobacco at the ballpark.

Minor League ballplayers already are prohibited from using the substance and can face fines if they use. Major League Baseball officials likely would have imposed a similar ban already if they could have gotten away with it without facing a  challenge from the ballplayers’ union – which contends it interferes with a ballplayer’s personal choice.

Now, the Chicago City Council is giving the major leagues what they’d like to see in at least two of the 30 stadiums in which ballgames will be staged this season.

YET WHILE I’LL concede there’s a benefit to Burke’s amendment, I also don’t doubt that he’ll enjoy the public attention he’ll get by taking on a “baseball”-related issue. At the very least, it will be a distraction from the many serious problems our politicos face, but have shown an inability to address.

BURKE: Taking on tobacco at the ballpark
Besides, a part of me finds it ironic that a life-long Sout’ Sider and White Sox fan would be eager to take on this issue – since he would have been a teenager back in the days when Nellie Fox was the Sox’ star player.

Who can envision the White Sox’ ol’ Number 2 without that big chaw in his cheek – and the many endorsements he did for chewing tobacco products. And which were also a significant factor in the lymphatic cancer that caused his death at age 47.

Which may, actually, be the best reason for officials to discourage tobacco use anywhere – and not just at the ballpark!


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