Bench jockeys: Win or lose, it’s how you play the game

In my younger years, I played baseball. A lot of baseball in many locations and at various levels. As any follower of the game knows, each team has nine players in the lineup. Other reserve players are relegated to the bench. There are some other players not listed in the lineup; they are the bench jockeys. Their job is to hurl taunts at the opposing players, mostly pitchers or batters. The goal is to make the pitcher or batter mad and thus lose concentration.

Some of these guys were so good they should have quit baseball and become jingle or commercial writers. If you succumbed to their taunts , you were said to have “rabbit ears.”

As a pitcher, I was on the receiving end of a lot of this taunting. We would identify the most vociferous bench jockey and if he ever came to bat, my catcher would holler out, “Stick it in his ear, Lefty.” This was back when players didn’t wear helmets or any other protective gear. I threw some high and inside breaking balls designed for that purpose. The pitch would dip and break away from the batter, so he sort of got he message. Most players wore sliding pads to prevent “strawberries” on their upper thigh. If I really wanted to hit somebody, I threw a fastball at a spot just below the sliding pad. It left a lasting impression of that time at bat for quite a while.

We didn’t want to injure or maim another player. Often we stayed at the same hotels and ate at the same restaurants and it was possible we might wind up with the same team in the future. So, the battles ended when the game was over. Reputations became mythical and friendships endured.

Politics is a lot like baseball. There are essentially two teams opposing each other – Republicans and Democrats. Each team has players, who are called candidates. The candidates are listed on a ballot, so people can vote or not vote for them for the various government positions available.

The bench jockeys have now become “mudslingers.” They are members of the public who wish to let the voters know their feelings about each candidate by casting aspersions on them through newspapers, the internet, all kinds of social media and demonstrations. These mudslinger activities get larger and louder the higher up the Ballot you go. More often than not, the mud that is slung is not true, or is exaggerated. The money that is behind a particular candidate is usually the source of the negative aspersions cast on the opposing candidate. The nature of these statements can be so severe that hey lead to investigations and congressional hearings, as we are now witnessing.

Fortunately we are not experiencing such things at the local level. Here, we live in the same community, we attend many of the same community events. Elections come and go. But, we still live in the same community. We, as individuals, have the ability to improve the quality of life in our town. Let somebody know if you have a complaint, also suggest a solution to resolve the situation.

Nov. 11 was Veterans Day. I have never asked a group of veterans what their political affiliation was. I am sure they have differing views on all the current situations. But, we all have the same view on maintaining the sovereignty of this nation so people can have differing views. We proved that. Our adversaries have a little more than a bruise on their thigh.

Richard Pender was is the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 459 in North Brunswick. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group.