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Why I support the hazing ban in Major League Baseball

By Nathan BraunJanuary 10, 2017

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Dugout Getty

In mid-December, Major League Baseball received some attention when it announced that it would be ceasing practices of rookie hazing that were based on “gender, race, age, or ethnicity.” What’s primarily targeted in this decision is the tradition of dressing male players in female wigs, dresses, or costumes as a means of “initiating” them into the league. While there has been a lot of positivity surrounding this announcement, some have reacted negatively, especially former players claiming that this sort of hazing is a traditional rite of passage that should be preserved. Others meanwhile have used the “slippery slope” argument to suggest MLB is running the risk of being on a path that robs clubhouses from having any fun.
 
Having been a diehard baseball fan for most of my life, I’m of a few different minds about this decision. Existing on the outside, there’s always a sense of fascination towards the activities inside the clubhouse. Much like how people spent time wondering if the cast of Friends were actually friends, there is a hope that these players you spend so much time rooting for feel the same sort of joy being on the team as you do watching them. In that sense, I understand the appeal of these rituals to fans and why some are defensive of them. Fans want to keep the fantasy that these highly paid, physical Adonises have the same type of goofy fun they would if the roles were flipped.
 
Where the arguments lose me is the insistence that this traditional form is the only way this dynamic can hope to be enacted. There’s a laundry list of modes of team bonding rituals that remain acceptable after this decision, ranging from wacky haircuts to costumes that don’t derive its humor from gender or sexuality. If there is any fan that feels hurt or demeaned by these activities, they should not be preserved on an argument as flimsy as “tradition.” While “sensitivity” frequently finds itself thrust into this conversation as a negative, I can’t help but feel like it’s those fighting to hold onto the hazing as being too emotionally invested in these traditions to accept that others may not see it the same way.
 
Despite my love of the game, I just don’t have it in me any more to accept “boys will be boys” or “locker-room behavior” as excuses for often ugly behavior. It is hard to accept the fact that people so quickly disregard the feelings of those upset by these rituals, as they promote the idea that embracing femininity or even unconventional masculinity is something worth mocking. Maybe these voices acting out are the last of a generation to hold these values? Or maybe this war of the masculinity will keep raging on? All I know is I applaud MLB for choosing the side that they did.