By Alabama standards, Huntsville is utopia.
Which it isn’t, and by that I mean no harm. Huntsville is more normal than its statewide stature, what with Southern heat and political concerns and education issues and gun-related crime.
It’s more Alabama than we think.
Which explains the Huntsville Stars, the city’s minor league baseball team.
The Stars, next-to-last in the Southern League in attendance, planned a Fourth of July celebration themed as “Second Amendment Night” on Wednesday. The team’s general manager, Buck Rogers, told the Huntsville Times that “one of the hot button issues right now is the Second Amendment that everybody's running from. We're not touching base on First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, abortion or any of that type of stuff. A lot of stuff makes people uncomfortable.
"Maybe it's time Americans basically said, 'Hey, what's going on? What's wrong with this? Day in and day out, people's rights are being taken away. The government is spying. We've got phone companies selling our information — the whole nine yards."
Baseball, with a slathering of politics and constitutional rights.
Everything was set. On “Second Amendment Night,” the team would give away free copies of the U.S. Constitution and hold educational talks about our governing document. Post-game fireworks would light up the sky. Card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association would get in free.
And three lucky fans would win spiffy new guns, provided by a Huntsville-area pawn shop. (Winners would get a redeemable certificate and have to pass a background check to get their new guns, which would not be at the stadium.)
The game’s promotional flyer was pure NRA-styled bliss. Two 19th-century pistols adorned the top. Photos of the three raffled guns were prominent: a “Ruger American with scope,” a “Ruger 22-45 MKII,” and a “Ruger 10-22-TD.”
At the bottom, the Stars proclaimed, proudly, “Gates open at 6:00 for an exciting night of baseball filled with patriotism, fun, food and firepower!”
Rawlings baseballs and Ruger guns.
Bring the kids and enjoy the fun!
But fate and wisdom intervened.
As if on cue, the Stars became the most talked-about team in the minors when their promotion hit the Internet. Wacky minor-league promotions are hardly newsworthy, but the Stars’ gun night caught fire — literally. NRA members and gun enthusiasts defended the idea. Others thought the promotion was inappropriate. A national sports website, Deadspin.com, wrote about it. Social media went nuts.
On Twitter, someone called me a “fool” after I pointed out Alabama’s high ranking in gun crimes and gun-related murders, not to mention several of Huntsville’s prominent gun crimes in the last year. (The Stars’ Twitter account also told me that “nobody is giving away guns” in a weak attempt to argue semantics, even though the team’s poster had photos — of three guns!) A conservative political Website described dissenters to the Stars’ promotion as “left-wing whiners.”
Level-headed officials at Minor League Baseball and the Southern League got involved. The weekend passed.
And on Monday, the Stars’ night of “patriotism, fun, food and firepower” was retooled. The firepower was gone. The gun raffle was shelved.
Rogers, the Stars’ GM, told the Huntsville paper that the cancellation “is in the best interest of baseball. We're part of a larger organization and we have to uphold the game of baseball. It comes before everything we do.”
Give Rogers brief credit; he’s right.
I’ll avoid the temptation to get all Field of Dreams here, but suffice it to say that those who chalk this up as another example of political correctness run amok couldn’t be more wrong.
In today’s world — less than a year after Aurora and Newtown, and not that far removed from the Amy Bishop murders in Huntsville — having glib gun promotions under the guise of Second Amendment patriotism isn’t simply inappropriate. It’s insulting.
If it took fools to get that point across, so be it.
Phillip Tutor — firstname.lastname@example.org — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.