TORONTO — It was the tossed beer can heard around the world.
There it was in the highlights: Baltimore Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim catching a fly ball hit to deep left field by Melvin Upton Jr., to end the bottom of the seventh inning. It was no circus catch but it was the farthest thing from routine, because a beer can, clearly not empty, landed just to Kim’s right.
It wasn’t simply ugly. It should be criminal. This wasn’t the case of a player having beer spilt on him or landing in a fan’s nachos when leaning into the stands to make a catch. There was intent to cause mayhem and disrupt the game at the risk of injuring a player.
Centre-fielder Adam Jones ran over to Kim and they looked up into the pews trying to find the perp. No luck.
It was, entirely for the worst, the second-most enduring image of the evening.
An awful thing to be sure, but it overshadowed an even more awful thing that only came out in the Baltimore clubhouse after the game.
Let’s rewind this.
Look, no fan base has a monopoly on sanctimony.
It seems like those who cheer for any particular team take inordinate pride in some aspect of their mode of worship.
Chicago Cubs fans will always consider themselves the best versed in the history of the crushing near-miss. They have been tested and still come back for more.
Canadiens fans will always tout how the crowds in Montreal are the game’s most knowledgeable. They see the action on the ice and understand nuance lost in other cities.
Saskatchewan Roughriders fans will always regard the measure of their commitment by hours driven and game-time temperatures in late October. They are out to prove themselves tougher than their pickup trucks.
For Toronto fans in any stadium or arena, it’s simply a matter of enlightenment. They look at themselves as being better than that. They lack a formal credo but it would be, roughly: Jerks, we are not.
I tried to explain it to a New Yorker walking along a downtown Toronto street. She was puzzled by cars slowing down in the middle of a block. I explained: There’s a crosswalk, so flashing lights or not, we brake at the possibility of pedestrians.
Yeah, it’s a Canadian thing, too. Saying “sorry.” It’s the national default mode. The worst thing in the world is that we might cause offence. Excuse my reach. Sorry. But, yeah, sorry, it’s an extreme case in Toronto. I apologize for bringing it up.
On Tuesday night Toronto’s self-styled enlightenment was left in tatters.
Okay, Blue Jays fans didn’t celebrate the extra-innings victory over Baltimore in the wild-card game by flipping over police cruisers or starting garbage fires outside the Rogers Centre—and it wasn’t just that, officers were on bicycles and the streets were utterly trash-free.
It only started with the beer can lobbed at Kim, as Jones called it, “as pathetic as it gets between the lines.” Everyone saw it and saw it over and over again.
That the perp managed to bolt before security could them is as pathetic as it gets outside the lines—flight as an admission of guilt.
If it were only the beer can, well, you might be able to put it down to a solitary idiot acting alone. If it were only the beer can, you might be able to put it down to an awful single moment that others in the stands were unprepared for.
It wasn’t only Kim ducking a suds-weighted aluminum projectile, though.
Even more dispiriting were the reports of racist insults being hurled at the two outfielders.
Jones didn’t want to dwell on anything yelled down out of the stands, but after the game told reporters he’s no stranger to racist remarks. “I’ve heard that so much playing baseball,” he said. “You hear everything. People cussing you, flipping you off. I don’t even care. Call me what you want. That’s fine.”
It says a lot about the state of a lot of things beyond baseball that a guy has to develop tolerance of racial abuse on the job. Or that no one, it appears, was ejected for shouting offensive and intolerable epithets at the two outfielders.
A jerk had their 15 minutes of infamy. Okay. But if fans heard someone abusing Kim or Jones and didn’t report it to security at the stadium, then it should weigh on their consciences, presuming they have consciences.
You wonder just how the hell we ended up here.
Here, by the way, is Toronto.