A clubhouse celebration was in full swing.
The Houston Astros were celebrating an achievement, as they moved closer to what they hoped was a World Series title. Those celebrations, aren’t just for players. There is a long list of thoughtful, difficult decisions that add up to that one team. That one group that, somehow, with all the pieces in place working together exactly as needed at the right time, goes to the big show. The final dance. All the people that have a hand in the success are filled with their own kind of excitement, pride and hope. They’re not on the field. But they’re uniquely and essentially part of the team.
One of those people was Brandon Taubman, the team’s assistant General Manager.
Taubman began his own celebration, loudly proclaiming, “I’m so glad we got OSUNA! I’M SO FUCKING GLAD!”
In that moment, perhaps to an outsider, it would’ve seemed like harmless fun. But there was something amiss. Osuna had blown a save. The expression of glee was out of place in that moment. There was something else that was troubling that, to an outside,r might not have seemed like much. But everyone in baseball, every fan, and all those on the job in some capacity in that clubhouse, knew that Osuna had been suspended for domestic violence against his girlfriend, and mother of his three-year old daughter. The Astros have supported him in what’s often seemed like an act of defiance. They’d set aside his violence against a woman, and hoped fans would be ok with that.
Taubman’s celebratory comments were yelled within a few feet of three women reporters and, according to Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein, and anyone present, Taubman was aggressively directing them toward Apstein and the other women reporters near her. Among them was a woman who wore a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.
Brandon Taubman, Cornell University graduate, who’d played JV baseball, got his degree in economics and management, which led to a position at Ernst and Young, former fantasy baseball player who the Astros took a shot on for his extensive knowledge of valuation applied to a baseball roster, had to have a decent amount of confidence to make such a hostile move toward those women. And why not? The Astros gave Osuna all the support in the world when he joined the team. And Major League Baseball certainly has done the bare minimum to exhibit concern for violence against women. Their responses to players committing violence against wives, girlfriends and insulting women in general has ranged from so-so to absolutely awful.
The toxic masculinity that is woven into the fabric of baseball, of sports, extends to the media. Women have come far. But we haven’t reached the finish line. I’m here to kindly tell you, there is no finish line. There’s always work to do in order to stand against that brand of masculine confidence that so often goes unchecked. There always comes a moment, when at least one woman or another decides, no, you shit head, you won’t do this without at least a good fight.
Shortly after the clubhouse closed, beat writers began filing their stories. Apstein tweeted a link to hers, with a simple statement of facts to accompany the link. There was no notable emotion or outrage, which she had every right to feel and express. She stood up, solitary, determined and clear. A wrong had been done. And that wasn’t going to be quietly buried, not that night. Damn all the narratives.
Consider the confidence Stephanie Apstein gathered to report on Taubman’s actions. Maybe you can’t. Maybe you don’t know how often women in sports media witness men doing and saying things we simply laugh off, or are just too afraid to report. To simply speak out is an act of risk. To write it, in order to right it, is a huge risk for any writer, particularly women. And women in sports media know that they’re always carefully watched, their every move examined for proof that she doesn’t belong or know of what she speaks. Or, in this case, actually does for a living.
Apstein might not even have fully realized the impact she would have by simply reporting on what she saw, heard and knew to be true. In the moment, we often don’t grasp how far these acts of courage can reach. Like Melissa Ludtke before her, who, in 1978 simply told her editor at Sports Illustrated that she’d been barred from entering the clubhouse to do her job, which led to equal access for baseball writers from then on, Apstein has taken one step. And one always leads to more.
She simply told the truth. Writing down what she saw, heard and knew to be true. Those kinds of acts are simple in execution. We speak, we write, we report to the proper people. But what follows is never simple. Stephanie Apstein took a stand. The sheer power and meaning of that can’t be overstated. Because, in doing so, she changed the industry. One step…another always comes.