Boomer Esiason Fouls Out On Paternity Commentary...

8:32 AM

Throughout time and space, I am willing to make the summation that the birth of one's child or children become the most significant day or days in a person's lifetime.

While I'm not a parent myself, I feel more than comfortable stating as a fact that the day a family grows is its own line item on the "happiest days of my life list;"however,  this is a fact that sports radio hosts Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason disagree on… these two media moguls would list "birth of children" immediately under "Opening Day."

Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy, spent a few days away from the clubhouse to join his wife, Victoria, in Florida for their birth of the couples' first child. Murphy wanted to be available to help his wife with their new baby while she recovered from a cesarean section.

"Quite frankly, I would've sad, 'C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day…who cares about ripping a child out of the womb before he is ready when opening day is happening." 

This is what Esiason had to say in the face of Murphy missing what he alleged were two weeks worth of games… FYI - professional baseball players have a contractually bargained for right to 3 games worth of paternity leave… not two weeks. (Thanks, to the Google machine, I figured that out with relative ease.)

Since 2011 paternity leave has been an element of the MLBs collective bargaining agreement. The inclusion of paternity leave allows teams to replace new dads on their active roster, while prior to the 2011 inclusion there were some all-star dads taking leave, it posed a challenge to their teams who wouldn't rotate their active roster.

While paternity rights, and practices have seemingly progressed in the "real world," in the realm of professional athletes, sexuality, family life, and yes, paternity leave are still "hard ball" issues. While Major League Baseball has including paternity leave along with bereavement leave because, well, it makes sense, it is the only professional sports association to do so. Chris Bosh was posting up against the New York Knicks on the day his son was born back in 2012. Brendon Ayanbadejo has implied that his trade from Miami was a result of his taking just 36 hours of paternity leave…

While the comments that were heard last week were frankly gross, and highly personal, the reaction and lack of actual controversy are the real story here…

Commentary on  professional athletes taking paternity leave is nothing new nor is the vulgarity or hostility these athletes are often met with. The upside? The opposing criticism that commentators have been met with.

Brendon Ayanbadejo and his two children
What I think is most interesting is what kind of commentary this provides to the shifting role of fathers and families; what this says about our definition and understanding of masculinity.

I don't think it's off-base to say that America's professional athletic associations are the American modules for hyper-masculinity. We look at these men that are strong, athletic, and wealthy - for many, this is the picture of the proverbial "Real Man." We place them in the line-up with firemen, police officers, even construction workers. Their masculinity outsized only by their muscles.

Perhaps it is this affirmation of masculinity that has stalled these bodies from progressing the way that many other realms in the "real world" have. We make excuses and allow for behavior to occur on the field and in the locker room that isn't allowed anywhere else - and it's purely chalked up to notions of "boys will be boys." From hazing to sexuality to racism - these American manly men have a long way to go; and I would argue, our society would move along much faster if they did their part.

Think of a world where the most "manly of men" speak out against using sexually derogatory terms? A planet where the All-Star team talks about the importance of respecting women… what kind of effect would these messages have on their fans? Young and Old? WOAH… Can you imagine?

Cesar Izturis, who took paternity leave in 2006, prior to the MLB contract inclusion.
The MLB, and Daniel Murphy, and all the other professional athletes that are taking time to be dads are effectively sending this message to their fans and followers when it comes to fatherhood and family. This bargained-for right, this line-item, this seemingly non-issue, makes a loud and clear statement on the shift of expectations, on the role that fathers play in a family unit, on the - dare I say - partnership that is parenthood.

Murphy, in an interview with ESPN, talked about his leave being the "right decision" for him and his new family. While Murphy has played 317 games for the Mets during the last two seasons, while he's had some big hits, when it comes to his family life, this is certainly a play to remember.

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