Yu Darvish and Yuli Gurriel and What We Can Learn About Civility
Today our country seems so divided. The gap between Right and Left has never seemed as wide in this generation. The growth of social media and 24-hour news has taken difference and mistakes and blasted them exponentially. The President in the White House won through bombastic and over-the-top demonetization of his political enemies and his critics use the same tactics against him and his supporters. Division. Demonetization. These are the words of our current cultural climate. How we got here is for another time and discussion. How we get out? That is where I would like this discussion to go. An example lie in the world of sports and the stage was this year’s World Series. Let us examine the racial controversy of Yuli Gurriel and Yu Darvish that occurred in Game 3 of the World Series this year. Let us look at what happened but most importantly let us study how both sides responded. Maybe then, we will find an answer to the dangerous climate we currently reside.
Yuli Gurriel is a 33-year old from Cuba who plays 1st base for the Houston Astros. He played in Cuba until 2005 where he contributed to the Cubans Gold Medals in the 2004 Olympics and World Cup of Baseball in 03 and 05. In 2014 he signed on to play with Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Japan. By February of 2016 Gurriel and his brother made the decision to defect from their homeland in order to play Major League Baseball in America. In July of that year he signed a $47.5 million contract with the Astros. On August 21, 2016, Gurriel realized a dream come true when he was called up to be big leagues. His rookie season, at 33, he and his fellow Houston Astros won the franchise’s first World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was in Game 3 that his name and picture would make every news station across the country. Not for what he had done in the past 33 years but for an action he made in the dugout against the opposing pitcher he had just gotten his first hit off, Yu Darvish.
Farid Yu Darvishsefat was born in 1986 in Japan to an Iranian father and a Japanese mother. He would go by Yu Darvish in both Japan and the United States. He was the most highly sought after high school prospect in Japan in 2004 when he chose to stay in his home country and play for the Hokkaido Nippen-Ham Fighters instead of answer the calls of Major League teams. By 2011 he signed a 500-million-yen contract with the Fighters making him the highest paid player in Japan. In 2012, he decided to move to American and pursue Major League glory. He signed a $60 million deal with the Texas Rangers in 2012. His second year in the league he had a perfect game going into the 9th inning against in-state rivals, Houston Astros. With but one out to go for the perfect game, Astros Marwin Gonzalez hit a single ending the quest. Darvish won fans throughout baseball with his light-hearted response to the hit.
In the seasons following, Darvish would be voted to the All-Star Games and finish second in the Cy Young. In 2015 he would undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it begun. At the deadline in 2017 the Ranger traded their ace to the best team in the baseball the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had World Series dreams and adding another ace to their already impressive pitching rotation they hoped would be the final ingredient.
Darvish started out hot for the Dodgers. In a crucial Game 3 in the Divisional Series against the Cubs he shut the offense down only allowing one run in the Dodgers 6-1 victory. But when the World Series came around, Darvish would struggle in the spotlight. In Game 3, against the same Houston Astros that had spoiled his perfect game 5 years ago he threw 49 pitches and only delivered 5 outs. It was a crushing blow when he gave up a home run to the Astro’s rookie first baseman Yuli Guiriel. He would not make it out of the 2nd inning in the Dodgers 5-3 loss.
After the homerun, a camera caught Gurriel apparently mocking the race of the pitcher he had just taken long for the first time in his career. By the end of the evening there would be people calling for his head.
Guiriel, who speaks little English and had to talk through a translator immediately expressed sorrow for the incident.
“I played in Japan and I know [that is] offensive, so I apologize,” he said. “I didn’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want to offend him or anybody in Japan. I have a lot of respect. I played in Japan.”
After apologizing publicly, he offered to meet with Darvish personally to apologize.
The nationwide criticism was quick and harsh. Suspension, immediately was called for. A fine so large it would actually hurt other said. “Punishment” and “Make an Example” were heard across news outlets. What is the correct response to his offense? We could hold Yuli Gurriel up as a poster-boy for insensitivity and racism. We could cast him aside, strip him of his career and lament the lack of appreciation for other cultures. We could raise him high in humiliation and say this is why we must fight racism and teach acceptance. Or we could learn a powerful lesson from Yu Darvish.
Darvish, like Gurriel speaks English sparingly, he too speaks through a translator. He said of his initial response to the incident “He did something he shouldn’t have done. This is going to be a problem, isn’t it? But I wasn’t angry at all.”
Forgiveness and a second chance were Darvish’s response. He did not call for his career or suspension from the World Series. When Gurriel reached out to apologize personally he did not deny it for pride or grind the man into public humiliation. Darvish was the wronged party he could have milked the situation to his satisfaction and none of us would have thought the less of him. But that is not we he did. No, he said, “It was completely unnecessary [to meet personally] and I wasn’t bothered by it at all. Even now, I am not bothered by it at all.”
He went further. He posted this on his Twitter account encouraging all of us to do the same:
No one is perfect.
That includes you and I.
What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant leap for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, lets stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.
He called for love. He called for everyone, not just himself, to treat Gurriel with forgiveness and second chance. “If we can take something from this it will be a giant step for mankind,” Darvish said. He called for all of us to “move forward instead of focusing on anger.” If only we had this type of leadership in our Presidency, in our Congress or among ourselves.
The lessons we can learn through this story are great. The principles we can teach our children through these baseball players are important. Being insensitive is not the same thing as being a bad person. Allowing ourselves to be easily offended does not lead to greater happiness nor change in the world. Showing love and forgiveness and giving others a break at their lowest moment does not lower us but raises everyone. Teaching someone what they did was wrong does not always require their complete humiliation. People can realize their mistakes without the need of anger and antagonism.
These are lessons we should apply to our political climate. We should not strive for humiliation for those we disagree with. We should not find ways to be offended or look to be the more aggrieved group. We should look to see the person instead of chanting “Lock her up!” We should see the individual and not the collective of our own defining.
A 2014 Boston College study looked at how political opponents viewed those they agreed with and those on the other side. It looked at both Republican and Democrats in the United States as well as Israeli and Palestinian rivals. It’s conclusion, “The study shows each side felt their own group is motivated by love more than hate, but when asked why their rival group is involved in the conflict, pointed to hate as that group’s motivating factor. This idea is called “motive attribution asymmetry,” one group’s belief that their rivals are motivated by emotions opposite to their own. The idea is driven by a group seeing its own members engaged in acts of “love, care, and affiliation” but, as the report points out, “rarely (observing) these actions amongst (opponents) because we only see them during moments of heated conflict.”
Do we fall guilty of this? Do we judge each other by the worst of the opposing group? Do we now consider the Left Antifa, only out to silence dissenting thought through any means necessary? Has the Republican Party become the Nazi Party in our mind, out to perpetuate Whites Domination at the expense of minorities? Is that where reality lies? Is Yuli Gurriel only an insufferable bigot of little education and no hope for a better way? Or are we all a little bit of the worst and best of humanity? Could we follow Darvish’s example and grant just a tiny bit of amnesty for the other side? Can we learn from Gurriel, that our life does not have to be defined by its worst moment?
Might we all leave a little bit more giving to those we do not agree with on foreign policy and the tax plan. May we judge others by their best intentions and engage each other with our finest arguments. May we change the tenor of our political discourse. The story does not end with us.
In the eliminating Game 7 of the World Series, Yu Darvish was handed the ball to win or lose the World Series for the LA Dodgers. When Gurriel came to the plate for the first time he tipped his hat to Darvish amid a hailstorm of boos. Darvish accepted the gesture with meekness and class. Peace, understanding and civility won the controversy. Humility and growth were the results. The injured granted peace to the guilty. A game was played and their story lie buried many paragraphs in.