Hi, I’m Jack Furlong. Yes, that Jack Furlong.
Many people know me as a professional jazz musician. Contrary to popular belief, that’s only my day job. After hours, I moonlight as a junkie dedicated to my other passion: baseball.
Prior to college, I grew up believing I would succeed in achieving my dream of playing professional baseball. I idolized Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees (even though I was a catcher primarily and a first baseman second), and I yearned to wear the same pinstripes and be part of the same tradition. An abbreviated collegiate career at Division I Lafayette College made me realize my calling was actually in music, but for good reason: my contribution to the world of sports would be in many other capacities.
Since I abandoned my quest for a spot on a 25-man baseball roster, I’ve held many different roles in baseball:
1. As a fan. (I’m still a diehard Yankees fan.)
2. As a player. (I still play hardball on Sunday mornings on a team in an adult-wood-bat league as a way to convince myself to exercise.)
3. As a manager/coach. (My first assistant coaching job culminated in leading a team of 11/12 year olds to a league championship. From there, my managerial career followed, including winning two more league championships with teams consisting of 15-19 year olds.)
4. As an umpire. (I started officiating baseball in 2007 and haven’t stopped since, officiating both my first high school varsity contest as well as my first collegiate club contest in 2013.)
In every single capacity in baseball, I have enjoyed everything this great game has given to me, and I equally enjoy being able to use the game to give back to our society.
Unfortunately, I have seen an equal amount of poor sportsmanship in all of these aspects as well.
I’ve seen fans berating players, coaches, officials, and even other fans for some of the silliest reasons. I’ve seen players fight other players over trash-talking. I’ve seen coaches engage players, other coaches, officials, and fans just to get their way. I’ve even seen officials act in ways that provoke some of these behaviors.
Look, I could list examples of poor sportsmanship until you get bored of reading this. But it’s probably more effective if I just list examples of things I believe:
1. As a Yankee fan, I have no ill wishes towards anyone who is a fan of the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, or any other team in Major League Baseball.
2. As a fan of the New York Football Giants, I have no ill wishes towards anyone who is a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, or another team in the National Football League.
3. As an alumnus of Lafayette College, I have no ill wishes towards anyone associated with Lehigh University.
Hopefully, you noticed a trend that no matter my allegiances, I have the utmost respect for my opponents and their fans. They, like me, are human beings, and they deserve the same dignity that all humans deserve at all times. Sure, we may have disagreements and good natured debates about whose team is better, but that doesn’t give any reason to taunt, belittle, trash-talk, or berate anybody associated with an athletic competition, whether a participant, coach, official, or spectator.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no place for intimidating or degrading language or, even worse, violence based on sports.
There are stories in the news all too frequently about an umpire or referee who has faced threats or even actual violence because of a close call or a rule interpretation. There are just as many stories about fans that are senselessly beaten or even killed because of their allegiance to a particular team.
Believe me, there are so many great rivalries in sports. But these rivalries are only developed based on their longevity, location, and on-field outcomes. The Yankees and Mets can be cross-town rivals without fans of one team telling opposing fans that they are second-class citizens. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers can be rivals dating back to their days in New York without fans having to die for their allegiances. Some rivalries don’t even make sense…who was the genius who put the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East anyway??
Okay, I’ve rambled for a long time. I’m sure that if you’ve made it this far down the page, you’ve fully understood the message I have been trying to convey. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I believe that there is no place in life for these acts of aggression stemming from sports. We can cheer for our teams until we are blue in the face, but none of those cheers should be derogatory to other people based on their allegiance to the opponent. And nobody should have to fear for their physical well being or their life because they choose to root for a certain team.
I chose to start this organization to spread that message, and in doing so, provide financial assistance to those who have already been affected by these senseless acts. They should not have to suffer for these ridiculous reasons. I hope that you share these sentiments and will join me in trying to change society’s way of thinking and the precedents set by people who chose to act before they think.