The city of San Francisco will implement a new law starting on January 1, 2016 that could potentially be a big, big problem for Madison Bumgarner, among other top MLB players.
What is this new law, you ask?
In May, San Francisco’s mayor Ed Lee signed an ordinance that bans smokeless tobacco from all public athletics facilities in the city, including AT&T Park.
Why is this a problem for Bumgarner, you ask?
The lanky lefty from North Carolina has been dipping smokeless tobacco since he was in the fifth grade, as he revealed to Tim Rohan of the New York Times, and still does, “pretty much all the time.”
The ordinance was put into effect as a proactive means to hopefully stem the tide of new smokeless tobacco users—young ones—who see some of their sports heroes using the stuff on a regular basis. Rohan notes the law in San Francisco will be enforced in a similar fashion to the way smoking laws are enforced, namely by people filing complaints, and that the penalty for disobeying the ordinance will be similar to a parking citation.
The big difference as it pertains to Bumgarner and others playing on the field (compared to the average Joe) is that everybody watching can see if they are dipping. There are cameras EVERYWHERE, not to mention the thousands of folks watching from their seats.
But is this something that will actually be enforced, given the love those attending have for their players?
Jake Peavy, who is Bumgarner’s teammate and who has also been using smokeless tobacco since the fifth grade, doesn’t think the law will have any teeth unless there is a significant fine attached:
“It’ll have to be a lofty fine,” said Peavy, “Just because of the money guys are making. Or they’re not going to stop.”
So what then? Will Bumgarner and others simply thumb their noses at the new law? What kind of message will that send to the young men and women watching at home or in their seats at the stadium? Is that message any better than the one the law is attempting to squash?
And on the other side of the coin, if Bumgarner does decide to quit using smokeless tobacco to honor the new law, will be be the same dominant force we’ve grown to expect?
Baseball players are ridiculously habitual. Given the fact he’s been using since fifth grade it’s safe to assume there are mental, emotional, physical and psychological addictions at play here. Ask a baseball player who has been chewing gum for 20 years while playing to suddenly stop, and you would expect there to be a big adjustment period mentally to such a drastic change. Now throw in a crippling chemical addiction that has been compared to heroin, and you’re looking at a potentially serious problem.
Someone who uses tobacco—smokeless or otherwise—”pretty much all the time” isn’t likely to stop, especially when he can use it freely anywhere else besides at AT&T Park.
So it’s likely Bumgarner and his peers who use the product are not going to stop, meaning they end up sending another terrible message to young children.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be sunshine and roses for guys like Bumgarner and Peavy who have been using since they were kids.
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports