Niagara Gazette

February 26, 2013

CONFER: Buehrle is barking up the wrong tree with his kids

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When Major League Baseball pitcher Mark Buehrle was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays during the offseason, his dog, Slater – an American Staffordshire terrier and bulldog mix – became a topic of conversation. Pit bulls are outlawed in Ontario, so the question became, “what ever will his master do?”

Would Buehrle make the move to Ontraio and put the dog up for adoption or have a friend watch him? Or, would the pitcher move his family to Niagara County (where the dogs are legal) from which he’d make the 90-minute commute daily?

The answer was none of the above.

Buehrle, a devout animal rights activist, considers Slater a part of his family and he couldn’t bear the thought of separating the dog from them. So, he opted to separate himself from the family and live in Ontario on his own during the season, while his wife and children stayed back in St. Louis with the canine.

I saw a lot of comments attached to online articles about this story in which the readers commended him on his actions. Animal lovers everywhere appreciated the love he showed his dog. It wasn’t unexpected as it’s not uncommon for them to put animals at equal with humans – and in many cases, above them (consider the silly instances out west when funds are set-up to protect specific mountain lions that have attacked, even killed, people).

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.

Mark Buehrle is one of the good guys in the game. Over the years he has touchingly extended charity and concern to animals and kids wherever he has played. That said, I hope he sees the folly in his ways and reconsiders his odd protest against Ontario’s pit bull ban. 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). 

He needs to love what matters most – his own flesh and blood, and not some dog. By doing so, he won’t end his solid MLB career with any regrets — he’ll feel like an accomplished father and not just an accomplished ballplayer.

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at TheNewAmerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at TheNewAmerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer