I always loved Coca-Cola — for more reasons than you might imagine.
First, I just liked it. I could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, even blindfolded, and I just liked Coke more. Things went better with Coke.
Second, as my readers will not be surprised to learn, there were issues of Jewish politics. Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, while I was finishing high school and then in college, my great political cause was the struggle to free Soviet Jewry. Like all Orthodox Jews, I despised communism and anything reeking of Karl Marx, and I was among the millions obsessed in those years with liberating Jews from behind the Iron Curtain. I was active in the Soviet Jewry movement, became a leader, and got arrested many times for nonviolent civil disobedience at several mass sit-downs in the streets of Manhattan’s Upper East Side — to wit, East 67th Street and Third Avenue — where the Soviets had their main center housing and the offices and residences of their United Nations diplomats and families. The slogans of those years echoed in my mind this past week as I celebrated the Passover Sedarim (Seders): “One, two, three, four: Open up the Iron Door. Five, six, seven, eight: Let my people emigrate!” “What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now! Freedom now! Freedom now!” With the gracious help of one particular friend I made in my dorm at Columbia University, a wonderful fellow studying Russian language and culture at Columbia’s department of East European Studies, I also learned several slogans to chant in Russian as well as two particular Russian profanities that were sure to get the Soviet diplomats’ attention when shouted by hundreds of demonstrators outside their windows, led by a guy with a bullhorn standing right across from their building.
One day it was reported that Donald Kendall, then the CEO of Pepsi, had just traveled to the Soviet Union and had entered into a major business deal with the communist government of Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin. By contrast, Coke was not doing business in the USSR. That dichotomy reinforced something else we had noticed. Pepsi was doing business throughout the Arab Muslim world — which is fair enough, in and of itself — but was nowhere to be found in Israel. During my first trip to Israel in 1972, I saw Coca-Cola everywhere in Israel — as well as their iconic Hebrew t-shirts — but not a sign of Pepsi anywhere, except when I traveled into Arab Muslim Gaza, where I saw Pepsi factories but no Coke. When I returned from my summer trip, I joined with others in launching a nationwide boycott of Pepsi. At my own college, we persuaded the director of food services to terminate contracts that gave Pepsi products a monopoly on all Columbia University food machines and to replace them with Coke products.
So I have been a Coke addict, so to speak. And when Passover comes each year, with its exceptionally restrictive dietary rules, our community always has known the secret that Coca-Cola markets special “Kosher for Passover” runs of its beverages, almost indistinguishable from the stuff that everyone else drinks, but discernible to the cognoscenti by the yellow bottle caps.
This Passover, though, I decided to pass over Coca-Cola. They are angry at Georgia? They want to condemn voting integrity laws to demonstrate that they are woke? Fine. They are free and entitled to blow off more than half of America if they like, just to cull favor with Stacey Abrams, who needs a bottle of Coke like I need a slice of bacon. And I am free to remove all Coke products from my house.
No Minute Maid orange juice.
No Dasani water.
No Barq’s root beer.
They are afraid that, if they do not join Stacey Abrams, they will lose business? Well, 75 to 80 million of us voted for Donald Trump the other day. That does not include those who would have voted for Trump if they had bothered to vote. Or their kids under the legal voting age. Or even those who voted for the Other Guy because they just do not like Trump as a matter of personality but otherwise also agree that the country’s election laws need to be tightened to assure ballot integrity. To put it another way: More than half this country, more than half the Coca Cola market, supports states tightening their voting integrity laws to reduce the preponderance of irregularities that pock-marked last November’s presidential elections. It is a matter of politics and ethics, integrity and justice. It is ridiculous and even racist to infer or impugn that Blacks in America circa 2021 cannot figure out how to get a photo ID. This issue is not a corporate matter that should concern beverage companies. But if Coke wants to jump in, I invite the 100-million-plus Americans who comprise more than 50 percent of Coca-Cola’s market to jump out. Or, as I might have said four decades ago, to emigrate.
Which brings us to baseball. There are few Americans who are deeper baseball fans than I. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, during the years just after the Dodgers abandoned my Zeyde (grandfather) and the rest of Brooklyn for Los Angeles. My Zeyde was devastated. They had taken Duke Snider away. Gil Hodges. Carl Erskine. Johnny Podres. Carl Furillo. And — worse than all that, multiplied by infinity – those ahntee-semitten (a figurative term for “anti-Semites” when not meant literally) had smuggled out of Brooklyn three Jews: (i) reliever Larry Sherry, (ii) his brother, catcher Norm Sherry, and — strains of harp music — (iii) Sandy Koufax.
Zeyde was lost. He still had his Siddur (prayer book for thrice-daily prayers ), his tallis (prayer shawl), his tefillin (the leather straps that Jewish men wear during their daily weekday morning prayers), and his Chumash with Rashi (Bible with rabbinic commentary). But he no longer had his Koufax, the answer to 2,000 years of Inquisitors, tsars, Cossacks, Muzhiks, and pogromists. He could not shift allegiances to the Yankees because, if you lived in New York and loved the Dodgers, you also knew that, except in 1955, the Yankees were the fearsome enemy who denied “Dem Bums” year after year. If “Wait Till Next Year” became the very motto of the borough of Brooklyn after each year’s disappointing World Series debacle at the hands of the DiMaggios and Mantles and Berras, “Damn Yankees” was what they muttered under their breaths — and it had nothing to do with what Lola wanted.
Zeyde was a Man Without a Team until 1962 and the founding — and perpetual foundering — of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club. The “Mets,” for short. He reared me on the Mets. Marvelous Marv Throneberry. Choo-Choo Coleman. A whole cast of colorful characters — oops, characters of color? — who set records for losing games, while never failing to be inventive in devising new ways to salvage defeat from the jaws of victory.
I became a rabid baseball fan. In time, since I never personally had been witness to the Brooklyn Dodgers nor to their perennial struggles against the Yanks, I also became a mega Yankees fan. Not only for The Mick and Whitey Ford, for Tony Kubek and Elston Howard, for the Moose (Skowron) and the Bulldog (Bouton), but even for Phil Linz and his harmonica (you had to be there), even for Héctor López. To this day, I am one of the most intense New York baseball fans imaginable — both for the Yankees and for the Mets. And in the one act of ultimate hypocrisy to which I must confess, Zeyde of blessed righteous memory would be proud that I continue to despise the Dodgers for having abandoned the littered streets of Brooklyn for the sunnier skies of Southern California … even though I eventually did the same thing 30 years later.
In my congregation everyone knows my baseball intensity. One year Marlene bought me a bobble-head ballplayer. Last year someone sent me a painting of Joe DiMaggio. Another year, my son Aharon bought me a DVD of the Mets 1986 baseball season. During the year I clerked in Kentucky for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, I traveled one day into Indiana to the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory and museum. (They since have moved back to their eponymous home.) I ended up with my own personalized baseball bat. That’s right. Instead of it bearing a Barry Bonds or Henry Aaron signature, it is a “Rabbi Dov Fischer” personalized baseball bat. That is how much I love baseball. It still has hundreds of hits in it, waiting to be actualized.
Nevertheless, this year I will boycott the major leagues’ All-Star game. If the MLB — Major League Baseball — is pulling its mid-season classic out of Georgia on grounds that the state has enacted voting integrity laws, I am boycotting that game. I am hoping that the TV ratings the next day reflect that I am not alone, that at least 75 to 80 million others among us also are skipping it this year.
How will I boycott the game, given that I was not going to be in Georgia that day anyway?
First, I won’t watch it. I won’t ask about it. They can play it in Gaza or Iran, for all I care. But more than that, I will do my best the next day to learn who advertised on TV during the game. And I will boycott all those products for, oh, a month or two.
I have watched the Left invade football and basketball. My readers at The American Spectator know that I, once a pretty intense New York Giants and even New York Jets football fan, have not watched an NFL game since 2017. Thank you, Colin Kaepernick, for inspiring me to use my Sundays more wisely — with wife, with family, with congregation, and with daily folio Talmud study. And I had stopped NBA even earlier. There is not a piece of clothes in my home with the “Nike” insignia. As for wearing $200 sneakers with LeBron James’s name on them, let him instead wear a yarmulka with my name on it.
Baseball has been different, until now. It has appealed to a more uniformly patriotic American audience. It has managed mostly to sidestep most of the garbage that has ruined the NBA and NFL. In baseball, they play the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and tens of thousands stand and sing proudly. Even in deep-blue left-wing New York, Yankee Stadium remains an island where tens of thousands stand at the bottom half of the seventh not to sing the pleasant “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” but Irving Berlin’s stirringly patriotic “G-d Bless America.” Sometimes even on the Mets’ Citi Field.
I hope the Left keeps its tentacles out of baseball. For now, I will boycott only the All-Star game. If they ever claw deeper into America’s national pastime, I will just have to execute an old baseball maneuver: hit and run.