Tonight the Washington Nationals’ injury prone but frequently dominant right-hand pitcher Stephen Strasburg will fail to make his scheduled start against the Colorado Rockies. For once in his star-crossed career, Strasburg missing time is actually good news: He’ll be back home in D.C. on paternity leave, awaiting the birth of his second child with his wife, Rachel.
I mean this is good news, right? A modern, forward-thinking organization has provided space for a prized employee to fulfill his familial obligations. A star athlete has demonstrated a grasp of priorities larger then what takes place on the playing field. This is an easy one, right? You'd have to be a bit of a dummy not to get this.
Michael Felger, a sports talk host on Boston's 98.5 The Sports Hub is precisely this much of a dummy. For Felger, the entire notion of paternity leave doesn't cut any ice. He didn't like it when Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez took paternity leave, and he didn't like it when Celtics power forward Al Horford took paternity leave. And most recently he didn't like it when CBS Boston Sportswriter Michael Hurley took paternity leave, leading to an unpleasant confrontation between the two on the air.
What are Felger's grievances against paternity leave? He peppers his eye-rolling diatribes with lame, factually deficient negs like: "(Athletes) work six months a year, and they have to take seven days off to tickle the baby?" He clearly regards the practice of being present and supportive to your partner and newborn child as a dereliction of work ethic, a formulation which broadly mirrors the self-obsession of a textbook psychopath: "When my wife had a baby, I went back to work two days later because my work's important to me."
While Felger's brick-struck stupid diatribes belong in the pantheon of other insignificant old-man anxieties like participation trophies and advances in civility, it nevertheless requires addressing. Recent history has taught us that failing to respond to retrograde bullshit has the tendency to make it viable. So let's discuss.
"What makes a man?" once bellowed the Big Lebowski, dabbing away crocodile tears. Disingenuous in the moment, the question reverberates in the mystic chords of memory. We wonder this same thing all the time. We're Men's Journal after all.
Does a man take the days and moments after childbirth to bond with his new infant, or does he make sure to festoon his audience with the most recent scuttlebutt on Jimmy Garoppolo’s trade prospects? Does he assist in the mother of his child's painful recovery, or does he get the inside scoop from a Boston Bruins beat reporter? This is Felger’s fantasy of "hard work." Abdication of solemn commitments in the service of so much trivia. Paternity leave is your right and, more importantly, your obligation.
Take care of your baby. Take care of your partner. Take the time off.