Baseball-as-metaphor and the ‘Mistake by the Lake’

Lynne Sherwin

Steve: What was your first ballgame and what do you remember about it? Also, what was the first election you voted in? How do you think both baseball and politics have changed since?

Lynne: I grew up just outside Erie, Pa., among mostly Pirates fans, although with Cleveland being geographically closer, there were some Indians fans too. My first game was June 7, 1988, at the old Cleveland Stadium, with a college boyfriend who wanted to see his Blue Jays play. The stadium was the dump everyone says it was, and there wasn’t much of a crowd so we were able to walk up and get good seats just a few rows up from the third-base line. I remember the Indians winning in dramatic fashion; Baseball Reference confirms that Cory Snyder hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off a young David Wells for a final score of 5-3.  I cheered, the boyfriend sulked. (It turned out to be a pattern.)

I watched baseball casually growing up, but I’m probably not the best judge of how much things have changed in the sport since I was a kid. Since I started watching it more seriously, especially since moving to Ohio, the increasing inequality has always bothered me; if the Indians/Guardians had a good player, you knew he’d be gone to a deeper-pocketed team in a few years. More baseball-as-metaphor.

I don’t remember my first voting experience well. It would have been 1986, which wasn’t a presidential year, and I lived in a township that had very little electoral drama, other than the occasional school board feud. My parents voted faithfully at the fire hall around the corner from our house, and I do remember getting my registration card as soon as I turned 18.

How have things changed? At least in my family – and I’m sure this is white middle-class privilege speaking – politics were just not a major topic of discussion in our lives when I was growing up. My parents were middle-of-the-road Republicans who voted Democrat sometimes. I didn’t really pay much attention to politics until college and afterward, when its effects on my life were more clear; I doubt there are many young people today who grow up in that kind of blissful ignorance. I’m not saying whether that’s good or bad, but it’s definitely different. And politics did eventually infiltrate my family bubble, when a favorite close relative started quoting some guy on the radio named Rush.

Steve: We all tend to romanticise our pasts, when in reality we were often dealing with issues back then just as serious as we are today; but how would you describe the community you grew up in compared with the one you live in now?

Lynne: They’re very similar. I’ve never lived more than 90 minutes from one of the Great Lakes (Erie, western New York, central Wisconsin, Detroit, Akron), mostly in cities with a heavy layer of post-industrial rust that have had to find ways to reinvent themselves. Erie and Akron are both “big small towns” where everyone has about three degrees of separation. Both have struggled with economic, race and class issues; the answers have been elusive as they are everywhere else. The year before I moved to Akron in 1995, the Beacon Journal won a Pulitzer for a yearlong series on race. It gave rise to a community organization, cultural efforts, a presidential visit, a sense of hope. Almost 30 years later, the Jayland Walker killing has shown how little progress has been made.

Steve: From policing and gun violence to even bigger topics like the environment and climate change, as a society we seem beset with problems that require immediate solutions, but we’re holding ourselves back because it seems every issue has to be framed through a “red” or “blue” lens. What do you think are the most pressing things the country needs to face, and can you see a realistic way past the polarization we have at the moment?

Lynne: The “red and blue lenses” are not the same. Only one side is engaged in undermining democracy and sabotaging absolutely anything the other side wants to accomplish. Only one side has turned into a cult of personality instead of a political party. Only one side loves to inflict suffering on people who are not like themselves. How to get ourselves back to a functioning democracy is the problem on which most others depend.

More young people need to get involved, voting and running for office and raising hell; because old people are making decisions on issues that won’t directly affect them, like abortion or birth control, or like climate change where they won’t be around to deal with the repercussions.

I heard someone say years ago that the greatest achievement of the modern Republican party was to persuade so many people to vote against their own self-interest. It’s now such a part of right-wingers’ identity, to the point where people were dying of Covid to “own the libs” because they wouldn’t take basic precautions. That will be hard to change as long as the stoking of fear, rage and division pays off in votes, ratings and social media popularity.

I think this is a pretty insightful Twitter thread on the current right-wing mindset.

I’m a big fan of Teri Kanefield’s writing. She makes great connections between the current situation and previous examples in culture and history. She tends to pull me back from the brink of despair, and she’s always promoting concrete actions people can take.

Steve: On the subject of our unending spate of mass shootings, when the Austin American-Statesman released the controversial video this week of the tragic Uvalde school shooting, it said that “unrelenting reporting is the way to bring change”.  Do you think the press needs an “Emmet Till moment” to shake its audience awake on guns, or is there a danger that we’re already too de-sensitized?

Lynne: I think most of the population is wide awake on the need for common-sense gun control. Polls confirm this, and most of the responsible gun owners I know are perfectly fine with licensing, insurance, background check and training requirements. The problem is rule by minority thanks to gerrymandered legislatures and the outsize influence of rural red states in the U.S. Senate, with those politicians pandering to the extreme right-wing base.

Steve: On another controversial issue, the rollback of womens’ reproductive rights have led to widespread confusion, panic and anger – the awful story this week of the 10-year-old Ohio girl has seen both sides of the argument try to use it to highlight their case. How much do you think the issue is going to have a galvanizing effect in the upcoming midterms?

Lynne: I’ve been incandescently angry about this, and it’s clearly not the last step in the effort to push women back to the 1950s. The cruelty, and the control, are the real intent; they’re not “pro-life” in any way beyond a forced birth. I hope people stay angry and that it drives voting, but I worry about the constant stream of new outrages diverting attention, the difficulty of overcoming gerrymandering and voter suppression, and the complicity of too many women in their own oppression.

Steve: While national politics seems to be in perpetual stalemate, what do you think of the local political picture in Ohio? How good are your local representatives, and generally how good a job does the local media do at explaining where things stand?

Lynne: Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment to fix the gerrymandering problem, and Republicans still managed to thwart it by basically stalling the process with unconstitutional maps that got rejected over and over until it was too late to draw any more. Incredibly discouraging, especially if the state Supreme Court composition changes; a principled Republican joined the Democrats in rejecting the maps, but she is term-limited this year, and the state legislature will be right back at it hoping to get lousy maps past the court for 2024.

I’m a big fan of Sherrod Brown, and clearly Tim Ryan (who has been my congressman since the last redistricting, even though he lives more than an hour away) is aiming for the same populist, working-class audience in his run for the other Senate seat. He may just pull off the win over that fake “hillbilly” J.D. Vance.

Emilia Sykes, who I know a little, is running for Congress from our district after a very strong stint in the state legislature. She’s just the kind of person we need more of. Young, charismatic, smart as hell, degrees in both law and public health, progressive without being divisive.

Akron’s leadership is being tested by the Walker killing. We’ll see how it fares.

The Akron Beacon Journal

Steve: Like Marc, you’ve had an extensive career in journalism – talk a bit about your journey? You switched jobs just before Covid and have been working largely from home since. How much of a change has that been for you and how much do you think Covid just accelerated some organizational trends within journalism that were already in motion?

Lynne: I spent almost 30 years in daily journalism and probably don’t need to rehash all the changes and upheaval that have happened in that time. For 20 years I was in my absolute best job as a features editor, guiding coverage of so many subjects I love – books, food, entertainment, arts, home and garden, pop culture. Most people don’t get that kind of perfect fit, so I’m grateful I had it for that long. But it was brutal watching the industry decline until the layoff bell finally tolled for me in 2019.

The B2B world I work in now is different, but at my publication at least, it’s still journalism. I’d only been working there for six months when Covid hit. Technology and a lively group chat have kept our publication on track without missing a beat, and my newspaper experience in social media and digital-first thinking has gotten notice from higher-ups.

I have a good team and enjoy seeing them in person, but I do prefer working from home for the flexibility, the comfort, and not wasting an hour of every weekday in traffic. I’m also lucky to have a staff full of ex-daily newspaper journos who don’t need a lot of hand-holding. As features editor, I was used to reporters working all kinds of bizarre hours to accommodate shows, screenings, etc. so I’m the kind of supervisor who believes that as long as the work gets done, your schedule is mostly your business.

Steve: As the business landscape has changed for the industry, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing media organizations over the next few years. What would you say to students thinking of choosing a career in journalism right now?

Lynne: So many challenges! Figuring out how to make money online. Covering issues and communities fairly and comprehensively with staffs that get smaller by the minute. Pushing back against the “fake news” myth and the delegitimizing of the press by Trump and his allies.

As with politics, we need young people with fresh ideas about how to pull all of this off, so I wouldn’t discourage students from going into the field. They should know that it’s not easy, it probably won’t pay well, and they’ll have to change jobs often (or their job itself will change underneath their feet), but there is really nothing else like journalism.

Steve: Ninth inning…..! Anything you’d like to talk about that I haven’t asked?

Lynne: I think I’ve yammered on enough!

You can follow Lynne on Twitter here

Lynne and Marc watching the Guardians lose the second half of a double-header
Their dog Addie wrestles with a headline
Addie’s namesake at Progressive Field

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