Dallas Sports Columnist Displeased With Pitcher’s Decision To Do A Totally Normal Thing

Dallas Observer sports writer Richie Whitt

It can be hard to tell that Dallas Observer sports blogger Richie Whitt is a sports blogger, since his professional blog, the one that is actually hosted on Village Voice servers, largely consists of pictures of women in various states of undress and reflections on recent Korn performances, so you could be forgiven for wondering where the hell he thinks he gets off shitting on Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis for having the gall to miss a start in favor of attending the birth of his second child.

I mean, my first question was, what is Richie Whitt doing writing about sports, anyway? Is there not a wet t-shirt somewhere in the whole of suburban North Texas that needs his undivided attention?

Apparently not. No, when Whitt heard that Colby Lewis skipped a game, well, this:

In Game 2, Colby Lewis is scheduled to start after missing his last regular turn in the rotation because — I’m not making this up — his wife, Jenny, was giving birth in California. To the couple’s second child.

That’s right, folks. If you can believe it, this guy attended the birth of his child. Take a moment to collect yourselves if you must. I know news like this can be hard to process. Ok? Ok.

And lest you think that Whitt was just joking, I invite you to read further, wherein Whitt doesn’t really joke at all but just talks about how hard it is for him to wrap his mind around the idea of taking a day off to see your kid born.

Don’t have kids of my own but I raised a step-son for eight years. I know all about sacrifice and love and how great children are.

But a pitcher missing one of maybe 30 starts? And it’s all kosher because of Major League Baseball’s new paternity leave rule?

Follow me this way to some confusion.

Imagine if Jason Witten missed a game to attend the birth of a child. It’s just, I dunno, weird. Wrong even.

See, it’s not that childless, single Whitt doesn’t know all about children and family sacrifice, it’s just that another dude choosing a different path than his is too hard for him to understand, and therefore wrong. No doubt the Gender Police have given Whitt some kind of very meaningful commendation (gilt mud tires, maybe!) and are preparing for quite the promotion ceremony.

Here’s where shit gets real: as the confused and disappointed Whitt noted, Colby Lewis is the first MLB baseball player to ever go on the league’s paternity leave list. This is not a small deal. This is a huge deal. This is a deal where a major sports operation moves from saying, hey dudes, we will pay you gazillions of dollars to chase a ball around a field and kids will look up to you for that as a role model, to saying hey dudes, with our express permission, how about you go be a father if you want to, because that is a good thing to do, that is also a role model thing to do. And Colby Lewis took them up on that. He decided that being a dad is important to him. And he went and was a dad and a husband and a partner.

And what’s more: he came back to work and is still a pretty fucking good baseball player.

So we can shrug off Whitt and say he’s just being a shit-stirring media personality who thinks any attention is good attention, which I am definitely doing, and which I think is a reasonable thing to do. But we need to go a step further and call out Whitt for using his shock-jock personality to perpetuate a system of toxic masculinity wherein men are only real dudes if they don’t do too much of that being-a-human-being shit, like trying to physically and emotionally support their families, witness once-in-a-lifetime moments and demonstrate that there’s more to life than a paycheck. Toxic masculinity, gender policing and shaming doesn’t just hurt women. Doesn’t just hurt men. Hurts everyone. Hurts families. Hurts people, all people, who deserve to not be pigeonholed and socially pressured into any one kind of behavior based on the junk in their drawers.

With this column, Whitt really hits the Toxic Masculinity Trifecta: ignorance (caveman too stupid to understand things other than sports/beer), fear (caveman cowed by freaky, unwelcoming ladybits and operations thereof) and dick-centricity (caveman judge value of all behavior in light of adherence to other socially constructed, traditionally male behavior). But hey, no doubt Whitt is pretty pleased at all the attention this is getting, not to mention the page views, because hey, page views you guys! It’s basically like thinking up a new cat meme! Victimless crime!

Except this kind of horsesassery isn’t a victimless crime at all. I don’t know if you guys look forward to this, or if Richie Whitt looks forward to this, but I do look forward to it: a day when those who have the microphone do not casually and ignorantly reinforce systems of gendered oppression that have been fucking up people’s shit for an awfully long time. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe being a father is the worst, and mocking men for doing absolutely, totally hetero-normal family stuff is super classy and awesome. I may have missed that memo because I was busy being parented by a loving father before growing up to watch many of my guy friends become great parents, because again, that is a normal and acceptable thing dudes do.

Of course, it’s interesting to observe the point at which Whitt, champion of toxic masculinity if ever there was one, felt it was reasonable and/or funny to call it “wrong” when a guy has demonstrably done the most heteronormative thing possible, which is to make a baby with a lady. Whitt doesn’t mind kids and family, ya know, he’s totally cool with that–it’s just that he wants to make sure the kids and family don’t upset some abstract image of Studly Professional Athlete, who is the epitome of manliness and would never let anything as silly–and unmanly–as parenting get in the way of actual priorities, like a baseball game. (And an individual baseball game as priority is up for serious debate, anyway, so go read Jason Heid’s post on Frontburner for more on why it’s not that big of a freaking deal if Lewis misses one game out of 30.)

So it’s really very simple: by choosing his family over his job, Colby Lewis is not performing masculinity properly, and that scares the shit out of people who have invested their entire careers, even their whole identities, in reinforcing said masculinity. What do I mean when I say a super studly professional athlete is not performing masculinity properly? I mean this: Colby Lewis’ act of choosing to be at the birth of his kid rather than starting as pitcher in a major league baseball game is a direct and public challenge to the patriarchal norm which dictates that women will be the ones to make career sacrifices, full stop. < / getting all women’s studies 101 on your asses >

Now, Whitt and his fans, one or both or all of whom I expect to turn up here in the comments section at any moment (oh, how I hope to hear a new sandwich-kitchen-stove joke, or perhaps a lengthy inquiry into whether I am fat, ugly or slutty!) probably think this all sounds like a bunch of feminist hoo-hah. It it totally is. Because feminism is for dudes, y’all. Richie Whitt just proved it.

About andrea grimes

Andrea is a journalist living in Austin, TX. She has a master's degree in anthropology and did her thesis work on gender and stand-up comedy. Seriously. Also, she has a bunch of cats. Three of them. Is three a bunch? Discuss.
This entry was posted in duders, feminism, media, parenting, sports, workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Dallas Sports Columnist Displeased With Pitcher’s Decision To Do A Totally Normal Thing

  1. LA Feminist says:

    This is an amazing post! Thank you for taking the time to deconstruct this! I look forward to the day when men take full paternity leave (ie. three months), but happy with this huge first step!

  2. KBO says:

    Preach, sister. Great post that other people need to read.

  3. Dan Solomon says:

    My favorite part is that he paused to make clear that he wasn’t making it up — like it was such an absurd thing to want to attend the birth of your own child that he had to make sure that you knew that he didn’t just pull it out of the air.

    Especially because it’s baseball. They play 160 games. Why on earth would one of them be more important than the birth of your own child? If it were football, where you get 16 games and a single loss can have major implications, or even a late season baseball game with the division on the line — I could almost understand the shock, because those dudes are conditioned to make all manner of extreme personal sacrifices on game day. But baseball? in April? That’s just weird.

    So to be all, “GET THIS! He wanted to attend the birth of his own kid!” and expect that his readers would share his incredulity, like he was skipping a game to go to the Pawnee Harvest Festival or something — I hope most of them are as confused by his tone as I am.

  4. JBT says:

    I just pray that Richie Whitt never does have his own children. He really shouldn’t procreate, especially considering that any female who would [willingly–date rape impregnation notwithstanding] make a baby with him would have to have the IQ and self-image of a toad, polluting the gene pool with their retarded offspring.

    • Chris says:

      So “date rape” is the politically correct sacred cow around these parts but not references to “retarded”? Good to know.

      • Nat says:

        Heyo, pretty sure most people would have cringed reading that. The use of “retarded” was a bad/ insensitive choice. And the whole hypothetical scenario in which said retarded offspring would occur was also a bad/insensitive choice.

        Pretty sure JBT was just ragin’ with the rest of us, and sometimes that can lead to poor judgement in zee internet comments, y’know?

  5. Kobe says:

    Well said!

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  8. Chris says:

    “his professional blog, the one that is actually hosted on Village Voice servers, largely consists of pictures of women in various states of undress”

    I claim false advertising! I scrolled through two pages of post archives on sportatorium and not a single semi-clothed lady to be found. I’ll channel my annoyance towards righteous indignation at Richie Whitt’s white maleness instead.

  9. mommymae says:

    my husband would have skipped out on big important lawyer meetings with multi-million dollar clients when we had kids. also classes in laws school. and anything else that one does for a profession when LIFE HAPPENS. geez.

  10. heidi says:

    Funny, as a Texas baseball fan… I’m somehow not offended that Colby, y’know, acted in a responsible manner towards his own progeny. Y’know, since baseball is also all about helping kids – even ones that aren’t biologically related. Rock on Colby!

  11. Molly says:

    I had no idea who Colby Lewis was before reading this, but you have made me very fond of him. I also bet he is an excellent father.

  12. wrapped up in books says:

    It’s his second child, but is it his first son? Because that would totally explain things.

  13. sarah says:

    Something that’s missed also is that it is quite possible for women to die in childbirth, or the child itself. Childbirth is not a walk in the park – it can be very dangerous.

    I know that I will not be willing to go through childbirth alone. I will need my husband by my side, and I know he won’t have it any other way. What if something happens to me, or my baby? If something happens to me I want him there to take care of the child and make important medical decisions for us. If something happens to the baby, I’ll need the emotional support that only my partner, my baby’s father, can truly relate to and understand. I like my parents and all, but my husband is the only one who could comfort me and care for me if I had to face the loss of my child immediately after giving birth.

  14. Kim says:

    Hmm…should I play a game, or should I be there for someone I care about when they’re going through something momentous (and painful)?

    Anyone who chooses playing a game isn’t a man, but a child.

  15. Sally MacEwen says:

    A few weeks ago Juan Diego Florez sang at the Metropolitan opera 25 minutes after attending the birth of his first child. So does that make the opera singer more manly than the baseball player, Mr. Whitt?

  16. emkfeminist says:

    Thank you for writing this kick-ass post! It’s so necessary to have voices of reason to counter-balance the idiocy of morons like Whitt. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  17. Jess says:

    So many times I have heard that a woman was “the first woman to do xyz” and I have thought “Really? The first one? What the hell took so long?” Well, now table are turned, and I am astonished that it took this long for a Major League Baseball player to take paternal leave…

    Being the first person to do anything is usually a stressful experience, so kudos to Colby, and congratualations to him and his family. I wish more men in the US would have the courage to take, or fight for, leave to spend time with family.

  18. The day I was born, my dad shared the waiting room with the president of the Atlanta Falcons and a huge contingent of team members. They were all there for the birth of the president’s child. The Super Bowl had been played the day before, so they all probably could have been at after-parties, which I bet, in 1971 Miami, would have been pretty astonishing. Think Richie Witt would call out a bunch of NFL players for picking celebrating with the new dad over celebrating with football groupies in South Beach?

  19. Daniel says:

    How on Earth is a gem like Richie Whitt still single? Get him while you can, ladies!

  20. Carol says:

    I remember how the Oakland A’s took flack for “allowing” Mark McGwire to miss the last game of his rookie season, costing him a possible chance to set a new rookie home run record, to go to LA for the birth of his son. And male fans were all over Rickey Henderson when he took TWO days off for the birth of a child while female fans nearly universally applauded him.

    I also remember the “good old days” when an athlete would be congratulated by teammates when, after the game, he got a phone message that his wife had given birth in another state.

    I don’t have to wonder whose kids (and spouses) are better off.

  21. LAH says:

    as a european football fan, this is both disconcerting and familiar — it’s fairly common for players to miss matches to witness the birth of their children (i can think of at least a half dozen who’ve done it this past season alone), but there’s also been pushback when it’s a really “important” game. xabi alonso, probably one of the game’s best playmakers, was left out of the starting lineup for a champions league match in 2009 because he had requested an extra day to be with his wife before their son was born; it was widely reported that the friction between him and then liverpool manager rafa benitez was one of the reasons behind his transfer that summer.

    i’m glad to see, however, that the comments on whitt’s piece (while laced with a heavy dose of sexism and homophobia) are critical of his bullshit stance — as i recall it, people were very unhappy with rafa’s decision as well.

  22. Noticed says:

    Love this. Thank you for your perspective.

    I think there’s something about the world of sports that makes men very possessive of the sexism that they can get away with in that realm. Some of the most sexist things I’ve ever read, about both men (as in this case) and women, come from so-called sports writers. Why don’t we hold them to the same standards as other journalists?

  23. Jackay says:

    I never liked baseball, been to a few games.
    But, I am now Colby Lewis’ biggest fan.
    (And Andrea Grimes’ too!)

  24. Steven says:

    I love Whitt’s logic. “Its his second child, but he is missing one of maybe 30 starts….gotta play the game”. His simple numbers argument shows that he should have been at the birth of his second child. 2<(30*number of seasons he will play).

    Of course, that numbers argument is irrelevant and its nice to see that he made the right choice and attended the birth of his child. Though I don't think this is the first time a player has missed time for the birth of their child, just the first time this paternaty policy has been used. Its still great that its an actual policy! Wonder if/when players will start taking longer than a day or two off and maybe a few weeks to be with their partner and new child?

  25. Funny, irreverent and RIGHT ON. I particularly appreciate that you point out how gender stereotypes and toxicity hurt everyone, not just the individual or sex they happened to be aimed at. Bravo!

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  27. CJ Anton says:

    Great post. Pointing out that traditional gender expectations are harmful to men as well as women is critically important, because if men are not affected, they (and therefore the media that controls the narrative of our lives) will not care.

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  30. David Marjanović says:

    I’m pretty culture-shocked that people like Whitt (still) exist… and Whitt is totally culture-shocked by the fact that anyone has an idea he hasn’t grown up with. How small-minded!

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  33. Jadehawk says:

    hey, someone wrote a response to people’s reactions to Whitt’s stupidity. And it was a massive “way to miss the point” sort of response. Because apparently, sport-fans are more important than caring for your family because there’s more of them: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2011/4/20/2121775/Colby-Lewis-paternity-leave

  34. Pingback: Local Sports Columnist Can’t Be Asked To Watch Women’s Sports | HAY LADIES!

  35. Connie Gray says:

    Wow. There is so much wrong with this article that I don’t even know where to start.. First of all, it seems that Grimes has a bit of an unhealthy obsession with Whitt. Which explains why it would be so easy for her to skew pretty much everything he says to fulfill her own twisted agenda. Regardless, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a man missing the birth of their child, especially if they miss it to do their job, which provides the means necessary to raise said child. I’m sure any number of enlisted men would agree, as well as men who’s jobs require them to be out of the picture for long periods at a time, and probably their spouses as well. Considering how hard professional athletes work to have that profession, and how hard they work to be the best that they can, it is surprising that any of them would miss a day at the job to see the birth of a child. Especially considering that being their for the birth actually has nothing to do with how good of a parent you are overall. It makes sense for women to have maternity leave because they physically birth the child and that generally takes recoup time. It’s more of a medical thing. It ensures better health for the mother and newborn child. But it’s completely unnecessary for a man to have paternity leave. I’m sure most parents that actually care about their children would love to have leave to direct all of their time and energy toward their newborn in it’s first days of life, but it’s not always plausible. When you go into a line of work like professional sports, or acting, or military service, or on an oil rig, you go in knowing that you will have to miss SOME things, but you do it because ultimately it will help provide a better, more stable future for your spouse and any children. I can almost guarantee that sports writer Richie Whitt, is much more knowledgeable about what being a professional athlete entails that Ms. Soldier for the Feminist Cause, Andrea Grimes. But of course, nobody even considers the fact that his comments have nothing to do with gender roles or feminism, rather than the abnormality of the occurrence in the field that he’s made it his life and career to know about. Because everybody’s always so quick to get offended and pick up their sword of justice against those horrible “cavemen” ideals, that they just generally misunderstand when somebody’s being sexist or just doing their job.

    • Connie Gray says:

      Also, in context, it seems more like Whitt is saying that a paternity leave for MLB players is kind of ridiculous, and I’d have to agree. With what they’re getting paid to be present for the games, which again, is the job that they’ve worked so hard to get in the first place, it would make sense for them to be present at the games. BUT, if they want to miss a game to see the birth of their child, that should be their choice, knowing what’s at stake. They shouldn’t have a separate leave policy just for paternity, because most professions don’t. Because it’s really not completely necessary. Only about *16% of employers even offer maternity leave. Why should MLB players get the luxury of something that most potential MOTHERS aren’t even offered?


      • Connie Gray says:

        Also, I think it’s hilarious that Grimes gets all huffy about childbirth and even tries to discredit Whitt for being childless and single, when she personally proclaims that she doesn’t even want kids.
        “Part of the problem is that I don’t ever intend to become a mother.”
        She says this, I’d like to note, right before she gets REALLY sexist by saying that what she automatically associates with the word “wife” is “a long-suffering Alice Kramden or permanently put-upon June Cleaver”.
        But ignoring the blatant hypocrisy in that, I’d like to know what right she has to judge someone for their opinions about childbirth, namely someone that has helped raise a child, when she herself has never, nor has any intentions of ever going through that?

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