When veteran hurler Mark Buehrle was traded from the salary-dumping Marlins to the aspirational Blue Jays last Autumn, it was widely noted that a pit bull ban in Ontario would impact the Buehrle family. With Buehrle having recently announced his wife and children will stay in St. Louis with the family dog while he relocates to Toronto for half the year, the Niagara-Gazette’s Mark Confer protests, “he shouldn’t allow his reason and humanity to be influenced by modern society’s strange love affair with animals in which they’ve gone from being a part of the household to a part of the family (it’s something akin to mainstream anthropomorphism)”.
I see his residency decision quite differently than they did. Whereas they see him as some sort of hero, I see him as a well-intentioned but ultimately bad parent. I love animals, but I love humans a lot more. To me, the real family – mother, son, and daughter – should take precedence over Slater.
Being an absentee father in order to cater to a dog isn’t touching. It’s touched. What sort of father would not want to spend his days with his 5-year old son and 3-year old daughter? Their youth is short-lived and precious. These are the days and years in which they are so cute (more so than any dog ever could be) and their brains and hearts soak up so much information and love. They need their dad to help provide that intellectual and emotional nourishment. Having him 800 miles away – in another country, no less – will do them no good. Sure, his ballplayer’s income will give them all the material goods that they’ll ever need or want, but, for 6 or 7 months out of the year they’ll be without the possession which they need the most – their father.
Suppose Buehrle plays out the rest of his career in Toronto. He’s only 33 and is still a darn good pitcher (he sports a 3.82 lifetime ERA), so it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to play another 7 years in the Bigs, especially for a rejuvenated Blue Jays organization (to which he’s obligated to at least three seasons). Will he continue to maintain the great divide between himself and his kin over that period? I hope not. By then, his kids will be 12 and 10. That’s a good portion of their childhood to throw away.
Of course, Ontario’s draconian laws against pit bulls might not be the only reason a ballplayer might seek to avoid his family for half the year. Hopefully Confer can hold every other Major Leaguer who spends time apart from his offspring up to similar scrutiny, even if there’s no chance to take a shot or several at dog lovers.