The Houston Astros played the third home World Series game in their 56 seasons as a franchise Friday night. The local personality selected to throw the ceremonial first pitch was J.J. Watt, the injured defensive lineman for the Texans.
This was not done as confirmation of the Astros' traditional secondary status in a football town; rather, it was a bow to Houston's devastation from Hurricane Harvey and Watt's fundraising campaign that has accumulated $37 million in pledges.
Baseball's decision to put this spotlight on Watt came on the same day ESPN the Magazine reported a startling comment offered by Texans owner Bob McNair to fellow NFL owners on Oct. 18.
There was alleged to have been two days of give-and-take among league officials, selected owners and player reps on the anthem protests. The true interest of owners for listening to the players' concerns then was summarized by McNair to fellow owners:
"We can't have the inmates running the prison."
As was predictable after this became public, McNair called it a "figure of speech," and concluded a statement with America's favorite non-apology apology: "I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.''
The way I learned it, the inmates couldn't be allowed to run an "asylum," but either way, you can make a case that McNair was repeating a cliché older than his 79 years.
The insensitivity is not the worst part of this. Instead, it's the bold-faced arrogance that demonstrates what little value these pathetic billionaires place on a workforce that takes more short-term and long-term health risks than any group of athletes in the world.
These parasites feed off the damaged bones, joints and brains of players, and somehow believe they are the game — that as they grow old in their riches, they are the ones who have made the NFL an enormous success, not the underpaid combatants often destined much too early for a wheelchair or an urn.
Doesn't it make you proud that Twin Cities corporations (with some public assistance) are coming up with only $13 million more than Watt has raised for relief to make sure McNair, Jerry Jones and that ilk are treated royally while freeloading during Super Bowl week?
Read Patrick Reusse's blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.