Many of you have made it abundantly clear in recent months that you don’t like to mix sports with politics. To which I can only say, be glad you don’t live in Venezuela, where baseball uniforms and politics have recently intersected in a particularly absurd manner. Reader Pablo Souki, a Venezuelan native who now lives in the States, explains:
Venezuela has been deeply split along political lines since 1998, when Hugo Chávez was first elected President. Everything in Venezuela is seen through politics, and it has split the country into “Chavistas” (Chávez supporters) and the opposition. There is no middle ground — people either love Chávez or they hate him. … [I]f I had to come up with an analogy, I’d say every politician in Venezuela behaves like Ann Coulter or Al Franken. And non-politicians do, too.
In the middle of this madness, Chávez and his party have decided they own the color red. Everything having to do with the Government is referred to as “red.” [For example], the most recent presidential elections in Venezuela were in early December of 2006. Chávez’s campaign color was, of course, red. This was December, so Caracas was full of Christmas decorations. That means in some anti-Chávez areas, Santa was dressed in blue, and red decorations were avoided altogether. That’s how badly some people react to red things now in Caracas.
So along comes the 07-08 baseball season, and the Caracas Lions roll out their new BP jerseys, and they are red. Brick red, actually, a lot like the Astros’ alternates, as Lions President Ariel Prat pointed out. Still, people are really upset, and the blogosphere is raging. Conspiracy theorists claim this is proof that the club’s owner is pro-Chávez. In truth, everyone in the country already knew that, so I don’t know what the fuss is about. But there are crazies threatening to quit following the team. For real. All of this over BP jerseys.
(Of course, a better reason to protest the Lions’ uniforms is that they have ads instead of nameplates (as do many Central and South American teams). For a refreshing corrective, click through the gallery of Lions uni history available here.)
About a week after I got Pablo’s note, I got a communiqué from Al Cummings, who told a similar tale:
In August I went to a friend’s wedding in Nicaragua and was bumping around in my Phillies (2007 Eastern Division Champs) cap. I got a lot of waves and nods of approval, and I thought it was because Nicaragua native Vicente Padilla had played for the Phils. My friend explained a red cap signifies my solidarity with the Sandanistas, still a major issue in that polarized country.
Hmmm, think they put that in the travel guides? Big thanks to Pablo and Al for their eye-opening tales.
Hall Monitor: One item from the weekend that I missed in yesterday’s post was all the activity surrounding the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions in Toronto. For starters, the Rangers and Maple Leafs wore Hall of Fame jersey patches for their game on Saturday night — the Leafs wearing it on on the chest, the Rangers on the shoulder yoke. Then on Sunday there was the Legends Classic Game, featuring assorted geezers divided up into Original 6 and Expansion teams. Things apparently got a bit surreal when Glenn Anderson played with sparklers on his skates (and can’t you just see some Fox executive saying to himself, “Damn, why didn’t we think of that when we had the NHL contract?!”).
Uni Watch News Ticker: Great shots here and here of Greg Wesley’s helmet decal being left in tatters after a big hit (with big thanks to Jason Gomez). … Terry Mark reports that Indiana will wear throwbacks this Saturday to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 team, which played in the ’68 Rose Bowl. … Unique find by Joe Hilseberg, who discovered a photo of an old Jim Turner Broncos jersey with the first initial added onto the existing nameplate. “Never seen anything like that before,” says Joe, who’s seen many a nameplate in his day. … I’m told that that the Kings’ patch in this photo is a tribute to SoCal firefighters, although I haven’t been able to find a closer view of the design. Anyone..? … Mark Mihalik notes that LaDainian Tomlinson’s cleats had powder blue trim on Sunday, to match the Chargers’ alternate jerseys. … Over on the Chris Creamer board, someone came up with an old photo of Marcus Allen playing in a Pro Bowl with a black facemask on his Raiders helmet