Chris Davis by Keith Allison, on Flickr

Big League Chew

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While I’m on the topic of baseball, there’s something else that’s been bothering me.

It’s not that baseball is the only sport where you can eat while you’re playing. I’m probably stealing some comedian’s stand-up bit, but think about it. Not just during breaks. I mean eating while you’re on the field, in the middle of a game. What other sport can support the kind of pace that even makes that possible?

But, as I said, that’s not what bothers me—I actually kinda like it. I enjoy watching Adam Jones blow a bubble while making an incredible catch. I like to chuckle at the spray of sunflower seed shells around first base in the 9th inning. I’m not even offended watching someone spit a huge mouthful of Gatorade onto the dugout floor. Baseball is a physically demanding sport, but not so demanding that you can’t have a little snack while you wait for the next play. That’s my kind of game.

What bothers me is the chewing tobacco. It’s disgusting, unhealthy, and it sets a bad example. Not just for kids—for everyone. I sat next to a guy, maybe in his early 50s, at Camden Yards earlier this year and he was spitting his tobacco juice into an empty Pepsi bottle. The revolting image in my periphery was only subdued by the hilarious mental image of what would happen if he mistook that bottle for the identical, half-full bottle of actual Pepsi in his other hand. All my willpower couldn’t make it happen, but man, that would have been awesome.

To each his own and all that, but it’s amazing to me that something like chewing tobacco is still allowed to be used during a game. Sure, back in the 50s, all your favorites were dipping (that’s what the cool kids call it, right?) but there were a lot of things we did back then that shouldn’t be part of today’s game. Just visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City for more on that point. I’m not saying chewing tobacco is as bad as segregation, I’m just saying it’s a relic of times when people should have known better.

And yes, I chose to illustrate this point with one of my favorite players, Chris Davis, because I want to appear fair and balanced after my attack on A-Rod. Nothing would make me happier than to see Chris give it up, set a better example, and truly clean up the sport. (Well, that’s not true—a lot of things would make me happier, but you know what I mean.)

I’ll take it a step further and say that I’d like to see Major League Baseball flat-out ban chewing tobacco during games. What players do before and after games is none of their business (beyond abusing banned substances), but when the cameras are on, the dip has to be gone.

I’m not saying get rid of sunflower seeds or bubble gum. You can bring a peanut butter sandwich out to the mound for all I care. Just quit it with the tobacco products. If not for me (because who cares, right?), then for the kids who should be able to emulate their heroes without getting throat cancer.