Curt Schilling’s opinions have hurt his Hall of Fame candidacy, but helped his brand. (David Manning/USA Today Sports)
Curt Schilling may never get into the Hall of Fame, but his status as a right-wing icon only grows with each lost vote. The end game is no longer getting a plaque in Cooperstown. Instead, it’s martyrdom.
The three-time World Series champion received only 45 percent of the vote this year, more than a seven-point decrease from his 52.3 percent total in 2015. In the months leading up to the election, several sportswriters who previously supported Schilling’s candidacy said they could no longer vote for him following a string of incendiary statements. The final straw for many, including the Boston Globe‘s Dan Shaughnessy, was when Schilling tweeted a photo of a t-shirt that advocates the lynching of journalists.
“Schill has transitioned from a mere nuisance to an actual menace to society. His tweet supporting the lynching of journalists was the last straw for this voter. Curt later claimed he was joking. Swell,” Shaughnessy wrote.
It’s disingenuous for Shaughnessy, or anybody else, to say Schilling actually wants to lynch journalists. The t-shirt is a joke, representing the disdain many conservatives hold for what they feel is a venal left-wing press. The fact that Schilling, who statistically is a superior pitcher to Tom Glavine, lost Hall of Fame votes this year only emboldens his case. If he’s serious about running for senate in 2018, his first campaign ad is already written.
“No, it’s not about about being yourself,” Schilling said on Kirk & Callahan Thursday when asked about losing Hall of Fame support. “It’s about being someone the left doesn’t like. That’s the difference.”
It’s smart business for Schilling to portray himself as a victim who’s been persecuted for his conservative viewpoints. President-elect Donald Trump rode this narrative all the way to the White House, even though the media awarded him with $5 billion in free advertising –– adding instant legitimacy to his campaign. Earlier this month, Schilling said he would be in the Hall of Fame if he disparaged Trump instead of Democrats and journalists.
“If I had said, ‘Lynch Trump,’ I’d be getting in with about 90% of the vote this year,” he told TMZ.
It’s insincere for Schilling to say his conservatism is the reason he’s losing Hall of Fame support, because he’s been politically outspoken for years. In 2004, just hours after the Red Sox had won their first World Series in 86 years, he decided to endorse George W. Bush for reelection during an interview with Good Morning America.
“And make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week,” he said.
But in recent years, Schilling’s political musings have become increasingly contemptuous. ESPN put up with a lot during his six years with the company: He wasn’t reprimanded in 2014 for railing against the theory of evolution on Twitter or for saying Hillary Clinton should be “buried under a jail.” Schilling was suspended two summers ago for tweeting a meme that compares radical Muslims to Nazis, but he returned to work afterwards. The end finally came last spring, when he shared an anti-transgender meme on Facebook featuring a burly man in drag.
Schilling was fired for his crassness, not his politics. But in the aftermath of his ESPN dismissal, he’s been playing up his role as a culture warrior, saying the WorldWide Leader employs “some of the biggest racists in sports commentating.” Now a host at Breitbart News, Schilling is wise to further exploit the right-wing persecution complex that Fox News and other outlets have ridden to incredible success.
“Shaughnessy has been calling me names since ’04. He’s just pissed, because he built his entire career on a fallacy and we beat it in 2004 and he’s been inconsequential and irrelevant ever since,” Schilling said on K&C, putting him down in Trump-like fashion. “[Jon] Heyman is a liar. I’ve watched him write lies about us in ’04, because I was one of them he lied about.”
As a player, Schilling’s ultimate goal may have been to get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But now, he’s better off sitting out, because he can present himself as a real victim of the so-called liberal takeover. The campaign stump speeches write themselves.