American Baseball Comes to Nana Plaza
I live in America and I am a baseball fan. For those of you who are not, think of it as America’s version of cricket, only it’s played most days of the week in the summer and in bigger stadiums. As I live close to Washington DC and our team is the “Nationals”, I follow all the players closely. And one of my favorites was a first baseman named Adam LaRoche. He was a great fielder, steady bat, and a cool head. Unfortunately, after the 2014 season, a better hitter moved into his position so he left the team for Chicago. Everyone wished him well at his new team.
Recently, he is in the news again. His new team did not appreciate him having his son at all the games in the dugout, and now hitting close to .200, his general manager said his son had to go. Adam decided that he would forego his $13M salary this year and instead retire from baseball. It seemed a noble gesture, a father giving up a boatload of dollars to be closer to his son. A couple of million dads in America, including me, were swooning for him. Then he decided to give an extensive interview to ESPN about the incident and other details of his life. After reading it, I realized I been played a fool. For those wondering what all this has to do with Thailand, here it comes.
During the interview, Adam disclosed that in the off-season, he and another baseball player had tried to rescue “underage sex slaves” in brothels using “hidden cameras” in SE Asia http://deadspin.com/espns-insane-adam-laroche-puff-piece-features-laroche-l-1770710009 What? This sounded too surreal for a baseball player from Kansas. Adam then claimed he and his friend went “deep” into the business and feared that if they were found out, they would be “thrown off buildings”. Exciting, but no mention of actually rescuing any underage sex slaves. I did a little digging into this story and the results disappointed me deeply. So, instead of feeling bad I decided to write about this story instead.
From what I can find, Adam and his friend are Christian conservatives who were caught up in the “End It” movement. This is group that purports to be against “underage sex slaves” but in reality are tied to the “end-demand” crusade. This larger group promotes the idea that all prostitution is inherently exploitative and advocates for laws where the prostitutes can offer sex legally but the customers cannot buy it. This goofy approach to an age-old problem had some success in Sweden, but has since had disastrous results, such as in New York City, where the cops abuse the girls much more than the pimps do http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/opinion/sunday/ending-demand-wont-stop-prostitution.html?_r=0
From this larger group, which at one time had college students across the world painting red “X’s” on their palms in support, sprung smaller groups who were the boots on the ground all over the world trying to save these “slaves”. Adam’s fellow baseball partner in this endeavor is an active member of “The Exodus Road” group http://www.guidestar.org/profile/46-1384815 that apparently handles only Thailand, India, and the US. As Adam said he was in “SE Asia”, I assume he was in Thailand for 10 days looking for these “underage sex slaves”, as it seems improbable they could get around much in a week in Cambodia, Laos, or Burma.
Well, we all know where amateur do-gooders go looking for sex crimes in Thailand, the go-go bars in Patpong, Nana, and Cowboy. One can only imagine the truly humorous situations this produced. Two big baseball players, trying to hide their hidden cameras for fear or their lives, asking Thai bar girls if they were slaves and wanted to be rescued.
Slave: Hi hansum man, you buy me drink?
Adam: Sure, you must be thirsty being a slave.
Slave: What? I’ll have tequila shot. You?
Adam: No, water. Hey, can I rescue you tonight? I’m from a group …
Slave: Oh, you want to barfine me? Good, I love you so much …
Adam: Barfine, no I want to take you away from this evil life.
Slave: Where? America?
Adam: Well no, we have a camp and …
Slave: Camp? I know you cheap Charlie try to get group discount. Fuck you!
I would pay good money to get the video of these conversations as I have always wanted to script an absurd comedic musical, like “Spring Time for Hitler” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHmYIo7bcUw I’m not certain they did, but my money goes to Adam and his buddy spending their 10 days poolside and their nights drinking beer in the bars, chatting up pretty bar girls, and trying not to get thrown off a building. Sounds like a typical monger’s vacation in Bangkok to me.
My guess as to how all this came about was that this “End It” group latched on to a couple of millionaire Christian do-gooders and in an effort to extract as much money as possible, offered up a chance for these guys to actually free “underage sex slaves” in Asia. So, these birds hatched a plan to invite them to Bangkok to film in the “brothels” of Thailand and try to help these poor children. Of course, these guys ponied up huge contributions for this privilege. As prostitutes are defined as someone who performs certain unworthy acts to extract money from their “johns”, tell me, who were the real prostitutes in this situation?
As I mentioned before, Adam is an open Christian conservative in America, which I really don’t care about. America is a huge country with lots of different people with lots of different opinions. In many ways, it is our strength. However, Adam and his ilk have become politically organized and have since had a tin ear for other people’s opinions. For example, they are vehemently against abortion but are actively trying to defund the one organization, Planned Parenthood, that is trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies. They also advocate against gay marriage and rights for LBGT people and are behind a recent spate of legislations for “bathroom bills” to prevent transgender people from going into the “wrong” bathroom and molesting children. As no one not associated with these advocate groups can find any real cases of children being assaulted in this manner, this seems an odd cause for Christians to rally behind. My question is: how would these laws be enforced? If you think body scanners at airports are intrusive … well then.
In fact, if you are really concerned with children being exploited sexually, you don’t have to look any further than your own area of the world. Most of these child victims come from broken homes, unprotected from predators, some of whom are family members. It’s a problem the world over in mostly poor communities with few public safety nets. If you clicked on the NYT link and read the article by Noy Thrupkaew, (who’s family origins appear to be Thai) you read how many homeless children prefer to on the streets selling their bodies to survive, instead of being abused by the cops, living in decrepit orphanages, or shady foster homes. Wouldn’t it be better if Adam and these “slave” groups spent their money on providing shelters and support for these children instead of running around with hidden cameras trying to reform adult prostitutes in Asia? Well, that’s not really exciting, is it? Sort of like the early missionaries who preferred to go overseas to save souls vs. working in their own local bowery.
Who knows what Adam and his buddy did in Asia as the videos from his “deep” adventure into the world of Asian brothels were not offered up. As I used to admire the man I concede that he probably thought.
There seems to be more and more of these ultra conservative Christian groups "helping" working girls in Thailand who are there of their own volition and are of legal age. There have been a number of articles in the mainstream press about these groups, profiling their work and the people involved. So what these baseball players are up to comes as no great surprise. Articles penned about their crusade and congratulating their work usually include gross exaggeration and factual errors about the industry and the girls' so-called plight that make the situation in South-East Asia sound much, much worse than it actually is – and most people reading these articles probably believe the nonsense which in many ways is propaganda.
* By the way, cricket stadiums are bigger than baseball stadiums! The Melbourne Cricket Ground has a capacity of, I believe, around 90,000.