Signs of the Times: An Anthology of All-Star Activism


The network didn’t show it, but in the bottom of the third inning of that recently contested contest of All-Star contestants, a group of protesters hung a large sheet sign that read, LOVE WATER, NOT OIL.

Though radical, and arguably a waste of a good bed sheet, the action hardly qualified as unprecedented. Indeed, on the occasion of five previous All-Star games, activists hung similar, if equally untelevised, signs of civil protest.


In the summer of 2011, with the wedding of Prince William now behind them, Americans turned their attention to syndicated TV. The stakes were high, as cooking- and trucking-school commercials competed for advertising time in the coveted 1 p.m.-4 p.m. “total burnout” slot. Competition went cutthroat as the summer wore on, and in efforts to sway viewers from a quirky sitcom starring Jason Lee, the producers of Walker, Texas Ranger body-slammed a Chase Field gate attendant and leg-whipped an usher in the commission of hanging their sign.


Decades before the Walker/Earl conflict, an uglier TV-centric battle had begun to tarnish our American experience. The back-to-the-earth movement had just taken root, with everyday suburbanites planting their own peas, corn and sensimilla. At neighborhood weed parties, which had replaced neighborhood key parties, these neo-planters spoke glowingly of their bond with Mother Earth.

“Gaia nourishes me,” they said, “just as I nourish Gaia.”

“Good grief,” others replied, “shut the fuck up.”

These “others,” as others called them, responded with a movement of their own, a crusade that centered on staying indoors and watching TV. Some called themselves the Total Burnout Liberation Front. Others, namely The Wapnerites, derived their passion from The People’s Court and its charismatic leader, Judge Wapner.

“The scales of justice shall tilt away from those with sunburn on their necks,” they declared, “and toward those with Cheetos on their laps.”

The group made its boldest – and most ironic – political statement on July 10, 1990, by hanging their sign in the lush ivy of Wrigley Field.


In the summer of 1976, as our nation celebrated its bicentennial by gazing at Judy Garland’s dress on the Freedom Train, a team of California misfits captured our movie-going hearts by reaching the league championship game, after which loss the Bears’ feisty shortstop, Tanner Boyle, screamed at the hated Yankees, “You can take your apology and your trophy and shove ’em right up your ass!”

Perhaps inevitably, a cult of personality developed around Boyle. Across America, bullied students confronted their attackers by shouting, “You can shove that wedgie right up your ass!” Shocked, and a bit bowlegged, the bullies quickly unionized and developed a retaliatory campaign to shift attention from Boyle to the man who played Coach Buttermaker, Walter Matthau.

The campaign peaked on July 13, when the Philadelphia chapter of Bullies United hung the sign at Veterans Stadium. It cratered, however, when Expos pitcher Woodie Fryman complained that they had misspelled his name.


In the summer of 1993, with hopes of moving on from the John Bobbitt affair, Americans stopped cringing and began cozying to the Canadian embrace of Proulxian fiction. In reading The Shipping News, they quickly identified with protagonist Quoyle and his struggle to build a new life in Newfoundland, a life that might not include a severed penis.

Enter, or re-enter, the Total Burnout Liberation Front. Dedicated to shifting America’s gaze from “candy-ass Canadian literature” to “its rightful place on a Magnavox screen,” the activists – if “activists” is really the right word – based their campaign on afternoon reruns of a beloved late-’70s sitcom.

Perhaps ironically, after attending the sign hanging, actor Gabe Kaplan learned that he would not be welcomed back to Camden Yards.


Last July, as most Americans tried to sound intelligent while discussing Edward Snowden, a group of activists arrived at Citi Field with one defining purpose: to end the centuries-old Jewish tradition of brit milah, or circumcision, traditionally performed by a mohel, pronounced “moil.”

“Aesthetically, and functionally, the human penis is a wondrous piece of equipment on its own,” said one activist, grabbing his crotch. “We don’t need to slice it up just to satisfy some old notion of a sacred covenant.”

Leading the effort was noted goy activist John Bobbitt.

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John, who has also written under the pseudonym "Azure Texan," writes for both The Hardball Times and NotGraphs.

20 Responses to “Signs of the Times: An Anthology of All-Star Activism”

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  1. John Paschal says:

    Just so there’s no misunderstanding, the word in that last line is “goy,” a Yiddish term for “gentile.” Carry on.

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    • dee.gordon says:

      I have more than once assumed that all goyim know what the word goy means, and have been shocked to find that they do not.

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      • John Paschal says:

        I’m no expert – on anything, actually – but my guess is that the word is more common in the North. Though a goy* myself, I had never heard the term until I was well into adulthood. I learned it from a Jewish woman I happened to be dating. Here’s the kicker to the tale: When she left town to celebrate Yom Kippur with her family, I met the woman who would become my wife.

        Thanks, Yahweh!

        *Read below for explanatory comment.

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  2. Mike Green says:


    Posted just in time for Shabbat dinner in Scarsdale. Mazel Tov, Mr. Paschal Lamb.

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    • John Paschal says:

      Re Paschal Lamb: Brother, I can’t tell you how I excited I was when, as a kid, I discovered my name in the Bible. I was all like, “Cool! My name is in the Bible!” (I wasn’t very creative.) Then, later, I was all like, “Waaaaiiiit a second. What the hell’s a Paschal Lamb?” Oof. Sacrificial lamb, indeed.

      But there’s the rub. It actually means multiple things:

      1) sacrificial lamb
      2) Korban Pesach, in Judaism, i.e., the Passover Lamb, to be eaten on the first night of Passover, with herbs and matzo, etc.
      3) Lamb of God, in Christianity, i.e., Jesus, the central sacrificial figure.

      Turns out, the surname Paschal is pretty interesting. Dependent on context and source, it means Passover on one side and Easter on the other. My peeps are literally straddling the Testaments! Crazy.

      My family has never identified as Jewish, but I suspect that we actually are, at least in part. My great-grandfather came from Germany. His son’s middle name was Gottlieb. Two + two = Jew, maybe?, here I come!

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      • Pascual Perez says:

        I keep getting getting lost trying to navigate that explanation.

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      • Mike Green says:

        Two + two = a hot tub somewhere in New Jersey in 1972 after watching the Godfather. The transitive property applies equally well to baseball pitchers- who knew?

        For what it’s worth, Gottlieb is equally a Germanic Christian and Ashkenazic Jewish name. And the Last Supper was a Seder. It’s more confusing than a Phil Niekro floater.

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        • John Paschal says:

          Well, here’s hoping I’m at least fractionally an Ashkenazi Jew – a lot of heavy hitters in that group. Einstein. Kafka. Uri “The Spoon Bender” Geller.

          I have a funny story about Seder, and now that NotGraphs is closing for business I’d better get all my funny stories out. A few years ago, while living in San Diego, my wife and I attended a Seder dinner at the home of one of her colleagues. At some point he handed to each of us a small booklet (perhaps the Haggadah?) whose text is entirely in Hebrew. While he read aloud from the text, I followed along, nodding solemnly and turning each page at the appropriate time. As I did so, his eight-year-old daughter turned to me and said, “You’re holding it upside down.”

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          • Mike Green says:

            “Uri “The Spoon Bender” Geller”

            …and Ryan “The Rule Bender” Braun. It aint all won ton soup, as we say on Christmas Day.

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  3. Billy Zane says:

    Why did you bring up The Shipping News??? Now I have that seal flipper pie-flavored makeout scene running through my head again.

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  4. KB says:

    Well, somebody did their homework. A proud moment in the history of Notgraphs reporting.

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  5. Shrewd Cat says:

    Could someone explain the term ‘wanker’. Here in Australia it is an insult and literally refers to a person who enjoys making love to himself.

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    • John Paschal says:

      Yeah, here it just means dingus, i.e., johnson, i.e, willie, i.e., wang. Of course, the owner of said unit is allowed to make love to himself and call it whatever he pleases.

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  6. Shrewd Cat says:

    “Aesthetically, and functionally, the human penis is a wondrous piece of equipment on its own,”

    Surely we can have a gif to illustrate this assertion.

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  7. Popeye says:



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