Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ba$eball, Lie$, and Videotape

The All-Star break allows us to reflect on the game of baseball. Baseball remains great enough that the people who run the game could not destroy it, however hard they try.

Players who genuinely love living their dream become the exception not the rule. How many of us dreamed of standing in that field of green in front of Fenway's Monster? Passion ebbs domestically, imported from our impoverished southern neighbors. Sparkplugs like Miguel Tejada, David Ortiz, and Vlad Guerrero become the catalyst for maintaining contact with the fans. Other exceptions exist, too. Jason Varitek is renowned for his video study trying to give his pitchers the subtle edge that breeds victory.
Players overestimate their role in the galaxy. Johnny Damon, the self-proclaimed 'Idiot' talks of being almost universally known. Humility and ability never became mutually exclusive. Gary Sheffield rebuffs the concept of a world tournament, 'made up'. John Rocker lambastes fellow travelers from worlds different than his, and Carl Everett dismisses both dinosaurs and Rocker's targets, too. Kenny Rogers bites the media hands that feed him and his family, and is rewarded with an All-Star trip.

The elegant symmetry of the sport allows a properly fielded groundball to defeat the fleetest runner. Historical ballparks construed a balance between pitching and hitting achievement. College baseball distorted reality with the aluminum bat, and major league baseball did it with rabbit balls, smaller parks, lower mounds, and ultimately juiced players.

When confronted with the distortions, baseball elects denial, principally via organized 'labor', a Union run by the rich for the rich. Millionaires quarrel with billionaires over who will become enriched further, fastest. Players on the cusp of shattering records weaken and atrophy, for reasons unknown or unspoken. Fans become endless taps for revenue, with player hubris growing steadily.

Umpires become hostage to videotape, as Ques-Tec enforces what common sense could not. The strike zone regrows and home run totals shrink.

The challenges facing baseball and humanity intertwine on this common ground. How both choose to overcome their struggle will determine their ultimate survival. It's hard to feel good about either's progress, with self-interest ignored and self-destruction their chosen path.

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