Professor Farnsworth says, Big news, everyone!
The city of Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, just banned chewing tobacco at all athletic venues. This includes Dodger Stadium. And this includes ballplayers … on the field.
L.A. is the third major city to ban chewing tobacco at ballparks — the first two being San Francisco and Boston. I’m pretty sure chewing tobacco has long since been banned in the stands, but it’ll be interesting to see if they actually enforce these laws against players and coaches (and managers, etc.).
In essence, I think these are basically symbolic gestures, because I honestly can’t imagine cops running out on the field to write tickets to players with an obvious chaw in their cheek. Symbolic because MLB has actually made it pretty clear it wants to ban chew on the field and in the dugouts, but the Players’ Association is fighting it.
Before you scream, “FREEEEDOM!”, keep in mind that chew has long been banned by the NCAA and in the Minor Leagues. The only reason it’s allowed at the Major League level is because the Players’ Association hasn’t agreed to a ban. I expect it to be seriously negotiated during the next collective bargaining agreement, though I can’t predict how that will turn out.
Banning chew at the MLB is a real issue, I believe. Studies have shown that baseball players at every level — high school, college, Minor League, freaking American Legion even — use chew at a higher level than non-ballplayers. Chew is weirdly deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball. No one understands why or how, but all they know is … there it is.
Banning chew in baseball gained traction when Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer in his early 50s. Then, shortly after his death, longtime chewer Curt Schilling announced he was battling oral cancer. Schilling seems to be doing well, other than occasionally being kind of an insufferable Muslim-hating asshole. (Seriously, dude, I’m honestly glad you are beating cancer and thank you for the bloody sock game and thank you for your anti-chew advocacy, but Jesus, you cheated death … learn to drop your bullshit about 1.6 million Muslims. Guess what? Muslims love Jesus, too. And maybe that’s what got you demoted at ESPN and maybe that’s a reason you can’t quite get in the Hall of Fame. Karma … it’s not just for Buddhists.)