Prizes for Me, but not for Thee

“The Devil rewards the Devil’s own in the Devil’s currency,” a wise woman told me. She may have meant the actual Devil, or perhaps was speaking metaphorically. I believe in the Devil. You may not. (Do you believe in angels? Isn’t there always an opposing team?) For our purposes, let’s put that differently: powerful people find ways to reward those who support their agendas. This brings us to the Nobel Peace Prize. Also the Baseball Hall of Fame. Prizes for me, but not for thee.

I imagined Alfred Nobel established the Peace Prize because the Swedish inventor and industrialist felt guilty about making a fortune with explosives used in war. The real story is even better. When Nobel's brother died, a newspaper, confusing the two men, ran the headline, "Merchant of Death is Dead." Nobel, desiring a better legacy than that, dedicated his assets to fund five Nobel Prizes after his death: Chemistry, Physics, Literature, Medicine, and Peace. His will directed the Peace Prize to "those who have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Many people can nominate, including heads of state and university professors. A committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament makes the choice.

Early laureates were statesmen who struggled to resolve great conflicts, such as the World Wars, and others less well remembered, like the Russo-Japanese War, mediated by laureate Teddy Roosevelt. With the invention of nuclear weapons (surely Alfred Nobel’s worst nightmare), several have been honored for efforts to limit nuclear proliferation. The Prize has been awarded often since 1948 for mediation between Israel and nations and groups committed to its destruction.  

If Nobel’s intentions mean anything, the Prize can go to only one person this year: Donald Trump. His negotiation of the Abraham Accords led to more “fraternity between nations” in that perpetually conflicted region than seen in decades. The Member of Parliament who nominated him felt he “did more to create peace between nations than most nominees.” It’s a valid claim: on Trump’s watch, the UAE, which once considered Israel “the enemy,” became the first Persian Gulf state, and only the third Arab nation, to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Bahrain signed on to the accords, and later North African Muslim-majority nations Sudan and Morocco. The “Coexist” bumper sticker adorning Subarus at every Whole Foods came a lot closer to reality.

President Trump almost certainly will not be awarded the prize.

Recently, the Nobel committee has awarded it to whomever they like, for whatever reason they like, without regard for Nobel's direction. It’s dangerous to defy someone’s final wishes; he may haunt you. Nonetheless, the committee makes a practice of it.

Nobel Peace Prize laureates include puzzling choices such as Al Gore, for his campaigns against purported man-made climate change, which the Nobel committee seems to take as Gospel; the European Union, for existing, apparently; and to Barack Obama, for his “efforts to strengthen international diplomacy.” President Obama must have made those efforts with astonishing speed. He was nominated 12 days after taking office. The day of his award I typed the word “why” into a search engine. Predictive text filled in, “…did Obama win the Peace Prize?” Everyone was asking.

No need to overthink it. As with Gore, the Norwegian Parliament liked his politics, and rewarded them with the currency they control. Norway is strongly liberal. Though it is not a Socialist nation, Socialists hold strong influence. The rest of the government is fond of directing its citizens’ lives, as leftists tend to be. A patchwork of taxes including VAT snags about 60% of paychecks. The modern Norwegian notion of personal freedom doesn’t follow the traditional US model. Few on the committee are likely to support Donald Trump, despite his undeniable accomplishments on the world stage, doing exactly what Nobel desired.

Only during the Winter Olympics do we care so much about Norwegians. Baseball, we care about all the time. The National Pastime inspires strong loyalties, fierce rivalries, and deeply held traditions, all enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, a mecca for fans and Valhalla for their heroes. Election to the Hall is the greatest honor a former player can be awarded. Candidates are voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association. I’m sure they’re a knowledgeable group, though I might hesitate to loan them my car.

They vote annually. A player must garner 75% of their ballots to get in. If not elected after ten years, he strikes out. His only shot then lies with a committee of veterans—players and baseball personnel.

Nobody made it this year. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were excluded because of notorious steroid use; Curt Schilling, because of his politics. Reggie Jackson scolded Schilling: “You took yourself out of the Hall of Fame because of what you say and how to express yourself and how you think.”

It’s important to understand what Curt Schilling did during his career. The most passionate fans in the game are those of the Boston Red Sox. Boston didn’t win a World Series from 1918 to 2003. Generations went to their graves cradling the hope their team might one day triumph. The Sox made it, or almost made it, to several Fall Classics, but bizarre bounces of the baseball denied them the ultimate prize for 86 years. Many called it a curse.

In 2004, pitcher Curt Schilling played a pivotal role in reversing that curse. He pitched remarkably well, as he often did. Twenty Major League seasons earned him a record and strikeout tally few can match. But Bostonians will forever hold him in their hearts for two crucial postseason games he pitched with an ankle injury so fresh he tore sutures, soaking his sock with blood. One bloody sock was auctioned for almost a hundred grand. It made an appearance in the Hall of Fame.

Schilling himself has not.

Why? He posted insensitive and controversial things on social media: a meme about transsexualism using crude imagery to warn about the dangers of shared restrooms, comparisons of radical Muslims to radical 1930’s Germans, skepticism about the theory of evolution, and positive comments about religious symbolism in the Confederate flag (Schilling is from Arizona). He supported and gave airtime to congressional candidate Paul Nehlen. Some have called Nehlen a constitutionalist, some a flagrant racist.

Merely contributing to the Breitbart News Network and The Blaze probably scared off a whole lot of sportswriters.

Schilling did the right thing. When he fell just short of the votes needed for Cooperstown in 2020, he withdrew from eligibility during his final year in 2021, calling the sportswriters cowards. Instead, he said, “l’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter, who are in a position to actually judge a player.”

Perhaps Schilling will be rewarded in the currency those veterans control. Perhaps not. Ultimately, his reward, like President Trump’s and our own, lies neither in Norway nor in Cooperstown, but in Heaven, where the Devil’s account has been closed.

Charles Turot is a pen name.