Should Athletes “Shut Up and Dribble?”


It was early in 2018 when Fox News host Laura Ingraham famously told Lebron James to “Shut up and dribble”. The response was a result of James talking politics publicly. LaVar Ball originally made famous the phrase “stay in your lane” when he chided Fox Sports 1 host Kristine Leahy during an appearance on the Colin Cowherd show. This is only two examples (there are many) where athletes or celebrities were told to stay silent, and just do their job of entertaining.

Recently, a Buccaneers left tackle wandered into the crosshairs when he began tweeting about playing during the Covid-19 pandemic. He was immediately thrust into the polarized and politically charged atmosphere when he expressed his thoughts and feelings. In this day and age no matter what you think or feel when you express those feelings you will be attacked brutally via social media. If you aren’t attacked for WHAT you said you are attacked for HOW you said it. Even if you aren’t attacked on how you said it you will certainly be attacked for WHEN you said it. It will always be something if you don’t just shut up and dribble, but this takes away the humanity of these celebrities and athletes.


As a nine year old boy in 1975 I had the opportunity to be batboy for the Cincinnati Reds for a spring training game. This was the thrill of my life. I was in the midst of the Big Red Machine when the Reds were jam packed with superstars and larger than life characters. Standing all around me were my favorite sports team as a nine year old, and I was in awe at the experience. I was in the dugout with my heroes seeing giant athletes and hearing language I had certainly not been around before. This was equal parts exciting and intimidation.

Early in the game after being given instructions I was ready to run out and get any bat dropped after a hit or walk, but the situation had changed. There was a runner on third base (I don’t remember who) and someone on first. Someone barked instructions at me not to get in the way if there is a play at home plate.

My nine year old bones shook. I was scared. What do I do if the bat is in the way? How do I know what is too close? Images of horror swam through my head. I wasn’t going to show that I was scared, but I was. All of a sudden someone stepped out of their lane. Someone didn’t shut up and dribble. Someone let their humanity show and made a difference.

Being Human

While I was perched at the edge of the dugout trying to process what was happening in my little brain all of a sudden a giant arm fell over my shoulder and Pete Rose knelt next to me. He started talking about the situation on the field. “We have a runner on first and third and there is one out, what should we do?” He started talking baseball with me. When the ball was put into play he quietly held the back of my shirt for a moment and then gently slapped my back to “go” when it was time to run and get the bat. He was human. He wasn’t an athlete in that moment.

Throughout that game I interacted with a lot of these larger than life characters. One very famous player struck out and walked his bat back to me, looked me dead in the eye, and then stretched his arm out and dropped the bat just beyond my reach to take out his frustration. Each of these giant, heroic figures were phenomenally human. Some were more wonderful and some were more flawed. Just like the rest of us, but on that day, above all else was Pete Rose talking baseball with a nine year old kid he had no reason reason to even notice.

Hit From The Blind Side

Donovan Smith may not have said what you wanted to hear. He may not have said it how you want to hear it and he certainly may not have said it at the time you wanted to hear it. None-the-less he said it. He talked of having a newborn at home and a wife and family and future. He talked about human things. Somewhere out there may be a father faced with the same decision. “Do I work and risk the health of my family? Do I stay out of work and risk our financial situation? What do I do? There is a man on first and third and I am scared. How do I handle this?” Donovan just gave this man the courage to choose what is best for him and his family.

I don’t have any memory of who won that spring training baseball game. I don’t remember who was on third or who was on first. What I DO remember is Pete Rose stepping out of his lane. I remember this giant of a figure taking a moment stop dribbling and say something. I remember a hero stepped up and stepped out.

That’s how I see it from the Cheap Seats.