The Opening Pitch: Almost as a rule, politics and sports don't mix — fans don't like the crossover, and athletes (or their managers) don't like the potential for alienating half the fan base.
The "Los Suns" situation felt different. The team's protest was entirely effective, and it was because of a unique confluence of factors:
— Location: The team's geography puts them physically square in the middle of the Arizona debate. This wouldn't have worked if it was "Los Red Sox."
— Visuals: They already had the modified jerseys from an earlier Latino appreciation effort. It's not like they made them specifically for this game.
— Timing: Cinco de Mayo would have been a perfectly appropriate day to wear the jerseys anyway; instead it became a symbolic moment on the calendar.
— More timing: The debate over the law went national just last week, and plenty of players had spoken out. The Suns' own Steve Nash was particularly eloquent.
— The Suns won: This seems superficial by comparison, but it lends weight to the symbolism that the "Los Suns" campaign was winning, too.
And the fan reaction to the jerseys? Almost uniformly supportive: The team earned cred for taking a stand; game-time protest over the decision didn't even qualify as "minimal."
What shouldn't be overlooked is that this was a display of team-licensed political protest unprecedented in sports history. That said: It will take time to understand whether this was a catalyzing moment in the repeal of the law.
At the same time, don't expect it to be easily repeated across other teams, other sports, other issues. Under imperfect conditions, it was a perfect scenario.
But it was a remarkable display of sports successfully navigating politics.
Tonight: Hawks try for CPR after that 43-point beat-down in Orlando on Tuesday night. (Let me get this straight: The Magic and Hawks can fit two games into three nights, but the Cavs and Celtics need a four-day rest between games?)
Tiger Watch: The Players Championship at Sawgrass becomes the new focal point of the season: How will Tiger rebound from last week's debacle at Quail Hollow? How will Lefty follow up his Masters win? And how will the crowd respond to Tiger?
MLB Talking Points: Barry Zito is 5-0. Really.
Philly Taser Watch: You know it's a problem when it is news that no one got tased at a Phillies game. (I'm kidding. But it WAS news that no one ran onto the field, which is a statement of its own.)
— Yesterday was all about Ernie
— Angels fall cont'd: vs. ex-Halo Lackey
— My April Cy Garza gets 5th W
— Injury Watch: Andy Pettitte
— Today's Best: Halladay vs. the Cards
NFL Offseason: Jahri Evans becomes the league's highest-paid interior lineman (7Y/$56.7M with $19M guaranteed). Not bad for a player who came out of Division II (Bloomsburg).
Big Ben Watch: Yeesh.
NBA Draft: Gordon Hayward is staying in. And despite the fact we might have liked to see him stay at Butler for one more magical run, why shouldn't he bolt: His NBA stock will never be higher.
Coaching Carousel: Mike Fratello was interviewed by the New Orleans Hornets. If anything illustrates the re-tread "carousel" nature of NBA coaching hires, it's the Bugs' pursuit of the TV analyst. There isn't a sport with less head-coaching talent depth or development in place than the NBA.
Marketing: As expected, Tim Tebow led the NFL in jersey sales in April. (Prediction: Tebow will become the first rookie to ever lead the NFL in jersey sales over an entire season.)
The Last Word: "There's just no excuse. It was unprofessional."
— Danny Ainge, on throwing a towel from behind the basket in an attempt to distract Cavs forward J.J. Hickson while he attempted a free throw.
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff.
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