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Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

My Divorce Letter to the Game of Baseball

In Baseball on May 22, 2011 at 12:32 am

Before I get started on this rant, I have to send out congratulations to my colleague and friend for scoring his first Big Bro Job at WGEM as weekend sports anchor and sports reporter. You’re gonna crush it, dude.

Now, on to the hate. This will sound a little absurd at times, but stick with me…

My Dearest,

I’m done fighting it. I’ve been in denial with my relationship with you for quite some time now, but after sitting through nearly four hours of a game that isn’t over yet, I’ve realized that you, Baseball are no longer my sport of choice. For at the last four years (at the maximum), I have maintained that you were my favorite sport. You were my love growing up, my occupation every summer whether it be umpiring games, playing games, or throwing the ball around in the back yard once my playing days were done.

However, while you have managed to do little to nothing to improve the quality of the game on the field, basketball, football and hockey have improved greatly and you have essentially been put on the back burner by football as the nation’s favorite game. And based on what has taken place in the NBA in the past 12 months, you are in trouble of losing your spot to the NBA as well. Growing up, I never would have thought this would happen with me. I enjoyed basketball and football, but I had too many memories and great experiences you and I thought that you and I would be linked together forever. You were a big part of my interaction with friends and family and that was something I will always cherish.

That relationship hasn’t fallen apart quite as fast as Tiger Woods’ marriage, but watching you in action this season, I have found myself less and less interested. Part of that had to do with the fact that the NHL regular season was coming down the stretch and the NHL and NBA playoffs have gotten started and have been outstanding to date. But trying to go from one of those sports to seeing you is getting harder to do from a television standpoint. Look, I understand that watching a game in person as opposed to on TV is comparing apples to oranges (and I’m a huge fan of oranges). But many of your teams don’t do their due diligence to their fans to make them want to spend their cash to come see a game. I didn’t realize how much of a problem this has been until I noticed that there were a ton of empty seats at last weekend’s Cubs-Cardinals series. .

However, I also feel that I have fallen in to the crisis that most of the people in this great country. I want my action and I want it now dammit! I feel that’s why I’ve grown more and more attached to Hockey over the last five years. This is why you have caught me a few times late at night watching a meaningless Edmonton-Calgary regular season hockey game. Now, just because you’re a slow-paced game, you still rank higher on my board than soccer or NASCAR ever will. However, I do have a few reasons why I think that my relationship with you, Baseball, has fallen apart over the years. These are in no particular order.

1. Your games can be hard to watch. This isn’t  a problem if I’m watching you at the yard, but I’m fresh out of grad school and have no immediate job. Throw in the fact that the closest park is three hours away and tickets aren’t exactly cheap, and that means no P.D.A. between you and me. However, when your friends in Boston and New York normally take over four hours to play a game, that moves at the pace you move at, it’s become a concern. Occasionally, someone like Mark Buehrle or Roy Halladay makes sure that doesn’t happen, but anything over three hours on TV makes it hard for me to focus. However, with playoff hoops and pucks, I’m always pleased with what I see, and I can’t wait to see more in the next game.

2. Your lack of star power is a concern. You don’t have the alpha-dogs that basketball (Rose, Wade, LeBron, Kobe, Dirk, Durant, Howard) and hockey (Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, Sedins, Perry, Chara, Lidstrom, Thomas, Miller) have accumulated over the years. Yes, Albert Pujols is your best feature, but after that, I can’t think of a transcendent player in the game today that you have to see every time they come to town. Someone that is worth the price of admission no matter what. Football has their share of alpha dogs that have been around (Manning, Polamalu, etc.) and new stars always coming in to the league but they don’t need to worry about it since it’s what all Americans are watching nowadays. Outside of a pitcher like Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay (who only play every fifth day), there aren’t as many players that command that type of attention, thus hurting the quality of the game.

3. Your smaller, uglier friends don’t stand a chance. Each year, your best looking friends in Boston, New York and LA are always in the hunt to be the best in the game. Even former ugly ducklings in Minnesota and Texas have had some plastic surgery and have moved in the direction of your hotter, bitchier friends. Thus, your uglier friends throughout the league never have a chance to shine because of the attention that your hot friends get. The worst thing, you won’t tell those friends that they need to lay off the gas and that they’re hurting your competitive balance. Luxury tax? They don’t care about that. Anything to vanquish the competition. Almost as bad as your hot friends are, the ugly ones don’t do their part to take that luxury tax cash and use it on players. I understand that you’re a business, but your ugly friends in KC and Pittsburgh don’t give their fans a reason to come out because they’re constantly bad. You need to do something about spreading out the competition amongst ALL of your friends. Until you crack down like your counterparts in the NBA, NFL and NHL have over the years, you will never be right. And until your wretched father Alan croaks, that’s not likely to happen.

(Note: Please don’t misunderstand that last sentence, I don’t wish that on Bud Selig. I do think baseball won’t get fixed until he’s no longer commissioner. Now that we’ve cleared that up, we move on.)

4. You have a steroid problem. As much as I would love to think that you should be a pure game, the truth is that you are far from it. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Your fans love offense, and it would make you so much easier to watch. Ask my new love’s father, Gary Bettman, how opening up scoring worked for fun in his sport. Your athletes know the risks that are associated with steroids. They’re adults, and they can make their own decisions. If I’m going to fork out some serious cash for the chance to come see you, I want to see someone with an over-sized head hit a ball 500 feet. That’s entertaining to me. If you aren’t doing everything your can to win, you’re not trying hard enough. I love that you’re looking out for your players and saving them from themselves and the pressure to keep their jobs. But they know the risks and know they might lose years off the back of their life if they take them. That’s on them more than it’s on you.

5. You’re occasionally played when you shouldn’t be. This is only a problem at the start and end of your season. No team should be forced to play baseball in the snow or freezing rain. It doesn’t give the players a chance to play at their best because of the weather conditions and your fans don’t want to come out and see you. No one wins that way, especially when the best teams gets put up against each other in what has now become October and in to November.

6. My favorite assets aren’t your best assets. I like to be able to look at my buddies and say to them, “Don’t you wish that was yours?” Well in the case of my two favorite teams, the Cubs and Royals, there aren’t many people who I can brag to. I live in baseball hell. I won’t quit paying attention to them, I’m not one of those fans. But between the Cubs spending tons of money and not producing on the field (or in the last 103 years), and the Royals not spending any money and being perennially bad (though they look like they’re on their way to improving), it makes it hard for me to be interested year-round. However, with my other interests in the other leagues, I’m actually better off (all three teams made the playoffs this past year, two currently in the conference finals).

So in conclusion, Baseball, you need to work on some things before we can completely mend our differences. The memories I have with you can’t be taken away, but our relationship may have reached the end of the line. I will be in touch with you, but you can’t have half of my stuff. Hockey will understand if you win my heart back.

Ryan Thomas