Standing near the Crawford Boxes behind left field, Chuck Jones pointedly sported a cap with the slogan: “Trump 2020: Keep America Great!” It was two days after the US president was jeered when he attended the previous game, a mere three miles from the White House.
Trump, who visited with the first lady, Melania, and several Republican congressmen, was pictured on the big screen inside Nationals Park after the third inning, sparking boos and chants of “Lock him up!” Fans in the stands also waved a couple of banners calling for Trump’s impeachment that were quickly confiscated by stadium security.
Fox, which broadcast the game live, had earlier shown viewers the president – but no mention was made of the taunts, which went viral on social media, raising the question of whether broadcasters should decide to cover newsworthy events that resonate beyond sports, or stick rigidly to the game.
Jones, a 49-year-old Astros fan, said the boos were “a disgrace … To boo him, and continue to boo him? This is how sick and delusional the far left has gone.”
Though Harris County, which includes Houston, voted Democratic in the 2016 election, thousands of supporters queued for hours last October to attend a Trump rally at the Toyota Center, the 18,300-seat home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets located a short walk from the Astros’ ballpark.
Had Trump turned up for a game in Texas, Jones speculated, the crowd would have reacted more cordially. “[It] would have been ‘hail to the chief’. We have respect,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who the president is. If it were Obama and he got booed, I’d say, ‘that’s a frigging disgrace’. He’s the president of the United States, I don’t care Democratic, I don’t care Republican. That’s the commander in chief of our country.”
Mike Layton, a 36-year-old Astros fan, said he was unaware of the jeering as it happened.
“I didn’t hear any of that during the live game,” Layton said. “Personally I don’t care what people think of him or don’t. I’m here to watch a baseball game. I would like to think that he wouldn’t get booed here but you never know.”
Donald Trump waves to the crowd during Sunday’s Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park in Washington. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/AFP via Getty Images
Kelly, 33, an Austin-based Nationals fan who declined to give her last name, saw nothing wrong with the crowd’s reaction. “I think you’re fair game wherever you are. You can’t really completely separate the two: politics and baseball. He’s a public figure and when you’re a public figure you’re going to be subject to what people think. I think he’s used to that, it kind of comes with the territory,” she said.
Artie Anderson, a 59-year-old Astros supporter, felt otherwise. “I don’t think that’s the right thing to do, personally. I don’t like booing players on the other team, even if they’ve destroyed you in the past. That’s just poor sportsmanship. Let’s have an affirmative, fun atmosphere and enjoy ourselves,” he said.
He added: “I think it depends on where you are. The northeastern part of the United States is a little bit more abrasive than those of us in the south. We’re a little bit more cordial, still.” Also, Anderson said, he prefers to focus on the game rather than the guest VIPs: “I mean, I don’t want that infringing on my experience of figuring out what the count is and how Justin Verlander’s doing.”
The answer to that last one: not well. Verlander, one of the Astros’ ace starting pitchers, extended his streak of World Series futility to historic proportions as the Nationals won, 7-2, to set up a winner-takes all seventh game in Houston on Wednesday. Yet Dave Martinez, the Washington manager, was ejected for furiously arguing a dubious interference call, becoming the first skipper in 24 years to be tossed out of a World Series game. Trump may have looked surprised to be the target of ire at a ballpark, but all umpires know that for them, it is an inevitable part of the job.
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