Rangers broadcaster C.J. Nitkowski's social media-inspired comeuppance couldn't have come as a shock to anyone who's paid much attention to the former big league vagabond. Since giving up on his Major League dreams and becoming a broadcaster in 2013, Nitkowski has frequently shown himself to be thin-skinned, reactionary and generally unpleasant, first as a talking head on Fox Sports 1 and more recently on Twitter.
Nitkowski's latest dust-up, stemming from his decision to follow and like a tweet from the Proud Boys, a right-wing group euphemistically referred to by its founder, Gavin McInnes, as a "pro-Western fraternal organization," is only the latest incident caused by the ex-pitcher's poor choices on social media. Nitkowski was in a Twitter fight with ESPN's Keith Law over a sexist tweet about a woman using her phone during a game, and he told people who objected to MLB rookies being forced to wear dresses on a road trip that they just didn't understand baseball. He stood up for Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon when Papelbon choked Bryce Harper in the team's dugout.
Nitkowski is one of those guys who claims he's "rejecting PC culture" but is mostly just an asshole. He's also one of the many off-the-field reasons it's becoming exhausting to root for the Rangers if you are progressive, are nonreligious, are LGBTQ, live in the city or maybe feel a little bit conflicted about militarism during the age of President Donald Trump.
After the latest Nitkowski uproar, the Rangers, through longtime team spokesman John Blake, told the Observer and other news outlets that the team accepted the announcer's explanation that he didn't know anything about the account he followed and was simply liking a picture of the gold medal-winning U.S. women's hockey team. Nitkowski won't be disciplined, which shouldn't come as a surprise. The Rangers, co-owned by Bob Simpson and former Energy Transfer Partners CEO Ray Davis, both Republican mega-donors, don't have any real interest in attracting fans from beyond their suburban base.
It takes one game, maybe two, to figure out what kind of audience the Rangers are comfortable with. From pregame warmups all the way to "I Like Texas," the Pat Green song that plays after every Rangers win, the team plays far more country music than any of DFW's four other professional sports franchises. There's the national anthem, of course, and frequent team-hosted military induction ceremonies.
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, "God Bless America" ends the seventh-inning stretch although Major League Baseball recommends that teams play the song only on Sunday afternoons. When it plays, fans in the stands treat Irving Berlin's song, which is just as much of a pop song and just as treacly as Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," as if it were a second national hymn, taking off their caps and putting their hands over their hearts while reminding everyone around them to do so as well.
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Then there's the kiss cam, which never shows same-sex couples and often plays with the idea that two guys might kiss for laughs, and there's the series of Christian concerts the team hosts before and after Saturday games throughout the summer, getting huge church groups to attend.
Most games start at 7:05 p.m., which is great for suburban families with kids trying to make bedtime but horrible for those who get off at 6 p.m. and have to fight Dallas traffic all the way to Arlington. Mavs and Stars games start at 7:30 p.m.in downtown Dallas and have better, more diverse selections of music, thanks to Mavs DJ Poizon Ivy and Stars music director Michael Gruber. The Cowboys' Jerry Jones is far from liberal, but his decision to kneel with his players before their game against the Cardinals in September shows he's willing to at least pander to Cowboys fans who are.
None of this is going to stop atypical Rangers fans from trekking to Arlington because being in a baseball stadium on a crisp fall night can be a truly joyful experience for sports fans. If the circumstances were reversed, however, and Nitkowski was liking and following tweets from an antifa group, it's hard to imagine he'd still have job.