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A grand slam for new dads

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NEW YORK — Last week, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took his contractually guaranteed three days of paternity leave so he could be with his wife, Victoria, while she had a C-section, and help out with their newborn baby. Murphy missed two games, including the season opener, and endured the boneheaded commentary of sports radio host Boomer Esiason, who remarked, "Quite frankly, I would’ve said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.’ " Who cares about ripping a child out of the womb before he is ready when OPENING DAY is happening!

What’s remarkable about Esiason’s comment in hindsight is not the idiotic statement itself, but the monumental backlash to it, and his subsequent apology, which came two days later. Among other things, Esiason said, "I apologize for putting [Murphy] and his wife in the midst of a public discussion that I basically started by uttering insensitive comments." That Esiason felt he had to eat such major crow shows how far we’ve come in our cultural perception of a father’s role.

Three days of paternity leave has been part of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement since 2011. Players already had up to seven days of bereavement leave — which allowed teams to replace the grieving player on the active roster — and having paternity leave on the books now allows teams to replace new dads in the same way. Some fathers did take leave before MLB’s paternity leave was in place, but it left their teams in a rough spot because they could not be replaced on the active roster.

That players lobbied for and MLB put paternity leave in place is a positive step for pro sports, but even more heartening is that every time someone makes a snide remark about that leave, they get shouted down. Texas Rangers’ pitcher Colby Lewis was the first MLB player to be put on the new paternity leave list in 2011. At the time Richie Whitt, a columnist for the Dallas Observer, suggested that MLB players schedule births for the off-season. And just like with Esiason’s comments, tons of people piled on Whitt.

It’s important to note here that it was men complaining about Esiason; it is men talking about how important being a dad is. Too often parental leave is seen as a women’s issue. For his part, Murphy took the criticism in stride. He told ESPN he felt it was the "right decision" for his family, and described the following late night new dad scene: "It was dark. [my wife] tried to change a diaper — couldn’t do it. I came in. It was just the three of us at 3 o’clock in the morning, all freaking out." Murphy standing up for himself and bragging about changing a diaper? He’s the future. Actually, he’s the present. Esiason is the past.

 

— Slate

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