12.02.2015 08:08 AM

Syrian refugees, David Price and choices

Two things preyed on my mind, last night. One was news accounts like this one, describing what Syrian refugees are presently experiencing:

As winter closes in, and temperatures dip into the single digits, the refugees will be cold, hungry and prey to disease. Recently the World Food Program was forced to cut back on food vouchers. That and other cuts left mothers giving up meals to feed their kids, refugees begging in the streets and kids being pulled out of school. In desperation, people are fleeing to Europe, fuelling a crisis there. But many more are stuck, facing another winter of privation.

And then there was this:

The Boston Red Sox and AL Cy Young runner-up David Price have agreed to terms on a seven-year free-agent deal worth $217 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday night because the deal — the largest ever for a pitcher — is pending a physical. It is expected to be announced on Friday, the person told the AP.

Son Three and I debated – or at least discussed – this juxtaposition this morning, on the way in, listening to CBC’s Metro Morning. He’s a bit of a jock, my son, so he was able to delineate the two worlds. The baseball player world, and the Syrian refugee world.

I can’t, and I couldn’t. And don’t get me wrong: like everyone else, I had heard Price was a great addition to the Jays’ late-season roster, that he was a team leader, that he was an inspiration in the locker room, and so on. As a Red Sox fan, I’m happy to see them become a contender.

But $217 million U.S. – nearly $300 million Canadian? Seriously?

I don’t know how many Syrian refugees $300 million would sponsor, but it’s obviously a lot. And, as I said to Son Three, what angers me – what truly sickens me – is not David Price. What disgusts me are the choices we make, as a society. It’s insane: nearly $300 million to play a kids’ game, a few months out of the year. While millions of actual kids are living worse than stray dogs, over in the Middle East, year after year.

I know, I know: I’m making a false comparison. They’re different things. Apples and oranges. But that’s not how I look at the political and personal choices we make. To me, they’re always connected. They say something about us.

Anyway, you get my point (I hope). This morning we wrote a big cheque out to the good folks at Jewish Immigration Aid Services, to assist them in their noble effort to sponsor Syrian refugee families. I was connected with them by my friend Gary Gladstone. (And, to me, it is worth noting that one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Muslim Syrian refugees is a group of Jewish Canadian citizens.)

We can’t undo the David Price deal, I suppose, but we can make a different choices.

Among other things, it’s the only way to remain sane.


  1. Good Morning and what incredible news. Thanks so much for your support.

    If others wish to assist as well, please follow these simple instructions for donations to benefit the Syrian Family we are looking to save:

    Donating is easy. Just go to: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/jias-jewish-immigrant-aid-services-toronto/ where you will find two options to direct your donations. One is to support their general work, including the settlement of refugees. The second one is for the sponsorship of Syrian refugees – this is the one to select. There is a “Dedication or Message Box” found under the amount donated. To be sure your generous gift is part of our campaign, please type in “A New Beginning” in the message box. Your email address will be needed as part of the Canada Helps process. You can expect two emails in the ensuing weeks, one confirming your donation has gone through successfully and the second one to provide your tax receipts to print for your record. It would be appreciated if you could also send back an email to Gary Gladstone at gary@gladstoneconsulting.ca indicating that you have donated – so we can track the donation.

    Together, we can save a family.

    Gary Gladstone, 416-830-4313

    A New Beginning Team

    Gary & Melanie Gladstone, Debbie Shawn, Savi & Roy Singh, Allan J. Fox & Suanne Kelman, Corinne Muccilli, Gayle Holtzman, Melissa Giblon, Ilana Shawn, Sari Shawn, Luong Tran, Wendy Dunlop, Paul Seppala, Elena Rotilio
    P.S. Please check out and LIKE our Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/anewbeginningtoronto

  2. John says:

    About 10,000 families, WK. If I am correct with my math and the figure for a per family annual requirement for privately sponsored refugee families.
    10,000 families = ~ 40,000 people?
    Slightly less than the population of Belleville, ON.

  3. Ray says:

    No, your’re absolutely correct. No wonder it’s so easy for people elsewhere to hate us – ‘Real Housewives’ 24/7.

  4. DougM says:

    The difference is crowd funding. Price’s salary is crowd funded. That is to say, there is only one source for MLB entertainment so the millions paying for that, whether that is season tickets or just one ticket in the cheap seats adds up to the millions needed to pay Price’s salary as well as profits for the owners.

    Now look at the Syrian refugees. We could easily crowd fund that except there isn’t one source. It is confusing and overwhelming when one googles how to donate. I’m not saying the various sources are bad, just that it is a marketing issue. Imagine tv, radio and the web with ads from just one single “clearing house” that was trustworthy to solicit donations, be they $1 or $100 or whatever.

  5. dean sherratt says:

    First, your instinct to donate to charity is entirely worthy.

    While I am largely indifferent to professional sports I do not see how the juxtaposition of suffering refugees and high salaries is a novelty. That the contrast is set out on the front page of a newspaper is merely an icon to the actual facts of disparity.

    Sadly, if and so long as the war goes on and remains active, it will create a refugee machine of perfect efficiency. I wish I could see how this large problem could be taken care of but I can’t…

  6. Eric M says:

    Great points Warren K. It also had me thinking how frustrated I get with these (non-baseball) Internet memes that say something like Why are we doing this when we aren’t even doing that?
    It isn’t a zero sum game. We can always do better in supporting all worthy causes.

  7. Pipes says:

    Yep. Had the same conversation with members of the Sports Lunocracy and to no avail…………..

  8. Joe says:

    I believe that the more we institutionalize charity (government instead of individual giving and caring) the more our choices become unbalanced.

    • Derek Pearce says:

      Explain further please. Because from where I’m sitting it seems only institutional charity is up to the challenge. Charities are stuck competing for the market attention of consumers just like every other enterprise these days.

      • Joe says:

        My inlaws brought two Hungarian refugees to Canada and put them up in their own home. It was a bit of hardship but not impossible for a hard working middle class family. Our church brought in quite a few Czechoslovakian families. We couldn’t afford to bring in nearly as many Vietnamese refugees. The government didn’t like the competition I guess because by the time we tried to bring some Serbians our refugee fund ran dry after one couple.

  9. Bluegreenblogger says:

    I really do wonder if gladiatorial contests are a safety valve for large and complex societies. A means to subliminate violent behaviour, and create clans and tribes to compete without actually having wars over nothing? Historically, your gripe is a very very old one. In Republican Rome the Senatorial class quietly scoffed at the grand contests they created to entertain the plebs. ‘panem et circenses’ was coined by those putting the shows on, not modern commenters.
    The Chariot teams were thinly disguised political/sports/underworld clans. There was even a literal Civil War in Constantinople between the Blues and the Greens chariot teams ( I $hit you not, the city was trashed and thousands died.) So these huge salaries, and over the top hero worshiping are not new. The hand wringing is not new, the fan bases are similar. I suspect that team sports do fulfil a social function, and are probably cheaper than the violence they putatively subliminate away. Else why would we pay these outrageous sums, and tolerate the appropriation of public spaces for private events?

  10. George says:

    Well said, couldn’t agree more. It does say a lot about our society and it isn’t good. If aliens came here and observed us from afar, they would think we are insane.

    The fact that so many otherwise intelligent people love watching sports is disturbing. Playing? Great. Watching? Colossally poor use of time.

    I used to be a sports fan but cured myself about 15 years ago when it dawned on me that I was wasting my precious life by putting time and investing emotions into something utterly meaningless.

    It’s amazing how many books one can read in a week when they aren’t watching TV, or the languages one can learn in a year, using the time that would otherwise be spent stuffing one’s face with garbage while watching a bunch of grown men play a kid’s game…or learning musical instruments, or volunteering at a local charity, or…. etc…etc… instead of becoming part of a large herd of sports fans who make it possible for someone to earn staggering amounts of money for something of little utility.

  11. A. Voter says:

    So, taxpayers should be forced to pay for the childcare of a tax avoiding, well paid millionaire prime minister. Because he’s entitled to his entitlements.
    But it’s wrong for consumers to voluntarily pay the salary of a sports figure. I read a quotation in the Post yesterday about how much better off the poor would be if the people who pretend to care about the poor fought poverty instead of capitalism.
    How many jobs are there connected to baseball? Why is that money being spent privately supposed to be worse than government make-work infrastructure programs? Or the outright vote buying corruption of politicians?
    Oh well, our support for the Syrian refugees brings a new load of potential $11 an hour nannies for the Laurentian elites like the Trudeau family.

  12. D Bennie says:

    Thanks for posting this – I used as a jump off point in an Ethics lesson in my Grade 12 Philosophy course – fuelled a full period of articulate debate and discussion.

  13. Kevin says:

    I don’t begrudge any sports figure their salary. My brother watches it all the time – he’s in the last stages of ALS and it keeps him occupied and not dwelling on his fate. He can only move his head these days, has one of those pillows with the pressure points so he can control the tv and switch to what he wants to see. So go for it – more entertainment for Pat.

    As for the Syrian refugees, do what you can. it can lead you in unexpected directions. My partner and I got involved with the Vietnamese boat people years ago. We volunteered, thinking they would ask us to do slide presentations in church basements to raise funds/awareness. They found out we had a 3 bedroom house, and were obviously only using one bedroom, and voila, we were asked to take in two to use the 2 extra bedrooms. Some trauma,. but all in all it was a fascinating time. We got to know 2 very interesting young Vietnamese, and helped get them out of the hellhole that is a refugee camp.

    There is no downside to helping a refugee. However you do it.

  14. patrick says:

    Bread and circuses.
    And I like bread and I like particular circuses – Giovinco won MVP and I’m flipping through the internet for details and stories – so I’m pretty typical.
    My question is if the money spent on transferring Seba from Juve to TFC wasn’t spent would it have gone to a better cause?
    If the circuses didn’t exist would all the money not spent have gone to the starving, the refugees, the climate? Or, would it just be money that no longer existed and could go nowhere and do nothing?
    I suspect the latter.

  15. Bill Templeman says:

    Good on you, Warren. Your donation is exactly the sort of response that deflates ISIS propaganda. We care.

    The obscenely inflated sports salaries will auto-correct when the Market discovers that we are not buying expensive tickets anymore or watching games on pricey cable packages. Live streaming online works fine. Stop the dysfunctional behaviour and the salaries will come down. How many of us would take our families to see a Habs or Leafs game at hundreds of $ a pop?

  16. MF says:

    Would rather pay a highly skilled athlete big money than a wall street banker.

  17. e.a.f. says:

    the thing is corporations will spend that kind of money on a pitcher, but won’t spend it on refugees. its that simple. the refugees won’t bring them the same return.

    I have no problem with the pitcher being paid that kind of money, they have a short life span in their working world and they have to make it while they can. Once they are finished in the game, they are finished. No one would turn down that kind of money, so why should this pitcher. it would just be nice if the guy signing the pay cheques would put a little back into the world, such as the refugees, or a First nations reserve, whatever.

  18. SG says:

    This about sums up how ridiculous I think professional sports fans are:


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