Stingl: ‘Hamilton’ and Josh Hader: One of these was the right time for a standing ovation

Now admittedly this should be small potatoes given the whole world of issues in the big picture USA. And maybe Blogging Blue has provided enough comment and background already but it just feels like this is a symptom of a major disease afflicting Milwaukee directly and the nation as a whole.

Reprinted in its entirety from today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (and linked from their website JSOnline):

When the actors bowed at the conclusion of “Hamilton” in Chicago Tuesday night, all 1,800 of us from the expensive seats all the way back to the other expensive seats rose to our feet in thunderous applause.

We loved the rap-infused music, clever lyrics, dancing and the tremendous spirit in this exploration of the imperfect patriot pictured on our $10 bills.

A standing ovation was a crystal clear way of expressing our delight with the hit musical and the diverse performers who brought it to life.

Which brings me to another standing O, this one at Miller Park last Saturday for Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader, fresh from his trip through hell after his racist and homophobic tweets from seven years ago were revealed during the All-Star Game in which he played last week.

He did a bad and hateful thing back when he was 17 and spewed messages about white power, the KKK and hating gay people, among others. He was in high school at the time in Millersville, a crossroads village in Maryland.

Hader, now 24, would be the first to agree with my condemnation of his tweets.

“There’s no excuse for what was said,” Hader told reporters. “I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said and what’s been going on. And like I said, it doesn’t reflect any of my beliefs going on now.”

His apology and regret sounded sincere to me. Major League Baseball decided not to punish Hader for something that happened before he got there, and instead ordered him into sensitivity training, which we all could probably use.

Then came his first appearance at Miller Park after the All-Star break. I wasn’t there, but my fellow Brewers fans in the stands did something, frankly, embarrassing. This mostly white crowd gave Hader, also white, a standing ovation.

My first thought: Too soon. The stink wasn’t even off the awful headlines yet. We’re still processing what this guy did. Let’s just hold off a minute before we give him a hero’s welcome.

Standing ovations happen spontaneously. No one has a chance to discuss first if it’s a wise idea or what exactly is being applauded.

I don’t believe Milwaukee stood up and clapped for hate, though many pundits and bloggers are painting it that way. They’re reminding everyone of how racially divided our city is and pointing to the ovation as more proof.

I’m not the first to say we’re awfully quick to forgive an athlete who used the internet to spread words that hurt, while we continue to condemn Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players for silent protests that illuminate and try to correct unfair treatment of black people in America, especially by police.

“Drunk and dumb” is how Deadspin labeled the fans on their feet. Being a Saturday, this assessment was probably at least half right.

I’ve heard people calling talk radio to defend the standing ovation, which came before Hader got a single batter out. They said he is older and wiser now, and they respect that he is accepting responsibility for his actions.

They said we’re just kids at age 17, though I would remind them we’re picking colleges and careers at that age, and the criminal courts in Wisconsin treat 17-year-olds as adults old enough to know better.

This is partly the same old story of fans expressing blind loyalty to members of their team. Hader better brace himself for the opposite reaction at road games, starting with San Francisco this weekend.

Putting the best possible face on the surprising standing ovation, we could say it’s because Hader is repudiating hate and intolerance now. I would love to think that’s true.

But I also believe some fans were jabbing a stick in the eye of people they see as pushing political correctness. If they clap their hands hard enough, maybe they’ll be transported back to a time when white privilege and bigotry went unchallenged.

Josh Hader just wants to pitch and probably would rather be anywhere but in the middle of this debate.

But as Alexander Hamilton reminds us, let’s not throw away our shot to learn along with Hader that we’re all in this together, even the people he says he learned to stop hating.

Contact Jim Stingl at

btw: the comments on the JS site make Blogging Blue commenters and readers erudite in comparison!


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