Monday, April 04, 2005

Root, root, root, for the home team owners

If they don't win it's a shame make enough money they'll move the team

I really do love baseball. I like watching most sports--except football and boxing--because, as I've said before, unlike most other things, you don't know how it's going to turn out when you tune in. I particularly love baseball for two reasons. First, because there's no time clock: as Yogi said, it ain't over 'til it's over. Second, despite all of the pearl-clutching and hyperventilating about steroids, average-size people can still play the game. That's not true in basketball, Muggsy Bogues notwithstanding, and it's not true in football, for many of the positions (how many lineman are under 300 pounds?). Hockey may be different, but hockey is destroying itself. In baseball, though, a guy can be the same size as the guy in the cubicle next to you and be a star. Greg Maddux is one of the all-time great pitchers. He's six feet tall, about 170 pounds--not particularly imposing.

And I love keeping a scorecard. The father of an ex-boyfriend taught me how to do it, and, thanks to a Tom Boswell essay about ten years ago, I learned how to add little bits of information (pitch count and first-pitch strikes) to my scorecard that enable even an amateur like me to see patterns emerge. (When I took my parents to a game at Wrigley some years ago, my dad told me that his dad always kept a scorecard. I went to my first baseball game with my parents and that grandfather when I was five.) This is helpful, because, unlike many people who grew up watching sports, I don't have the ability to remember particular moments or plays. I pick up the gestalt of the game rather than registering individual moments.

But, people, and I hope I'm not bursting anyone's balloons here, it is a BUSINESS. It is not sport, per se--sport is what I do, when I shlep to the gym three days a week to hit a little blue ball around; sport is what some of my friends are doing next week when they shlep to St. Louis, on their own dime and own time, to play in a tournament. Half of the people who show up in St. Louis will lose in the first round, and still they show up. Yes, there are truly beautiful (or bee-yoo-tee-full, as they say in Philadelphia) moments in the sports business, but the enterprises are being conducted in different ways, for different reasons. Barry Bonds--whom you may very well dislike--once said that the last time he played baseball "for fun" was in high school. The team owners aren't paying him to have fun: the owners are paying him to entertain the paying customers.

Now, we can argue about how we want that entertainment served to us. Personally, I'd prefer no steroids or growth hormones or the like. They can be bad for players' heatlh (don't be surprised if you start seeing more liver disease among professional athletes in the next couple of decades), and I object to any job condition that can cause harm. Second, when some players use them, they all feel pressure to use them, especially when a couple of points on a batting average could be the difference between the major and minor leagues; better that no one use them. Third, and most important to me, I'm more interested in seeing what non-'roided players can do. I think it's more interesting, more entertaining, if you will.

You'll understand, perhaps, that what pisses me off the most is not how "greedy" the players supposedly are. Tell me, if you could earn millions a year doing what you do, wouldn't you take it? You bet your ass your would. Same with all those CEOs, and, frankly, their pay is MUCH less tied to performance than most baseball players. If you're going to make the big bucks in baseball, you have to get to free agency first, and that means you have to prove yourself, consistently.

What pisses me off is the owners, with their constant whining and griping and complaining. See, for example, Daddy'O's comment to Fred's post. He notes:
On that day, the Cardinals' owners broke ground on a new, outrageously expensive, useless, redundant faux-retro cookie cutter stadium. The new stadium will be 1) uglier, by far, than the present one 2) seat fewer people 3) look just like every other new stadium, with throwback brick and squarish lines 4) be at least twice as expensive as the present stadium for a ticket and 5) is partly funded at taxpayer expense, without a referendum, and with 75% of said taxpayers polled being AGAINST a new stadium, however it was funded.
These same owners contributed heavily to Bush's reelection, which isn't even what I hold against them. What annoys the shit out of me is that they have managed to secure public funding for this project, despite massive opposition to the project, and they do it by preying on our nostalgia, on our wish that it were a sport rather than a business. Your voice, your opinion, simply does not matter; these men are sufficiently rich such that they can get what they want. And, though I haven't been to St. Louis in awhile, I imagine that there are many better uses to which tax dollars can be put--schools, anyone?--than a new baseball stadium. Similarly, with our fellow Americans and many Iraqis dying every single goddamned day in Iraq, our Congresspeople thought that hearings on steroid use in baseball was more important. Our President keeps getting a free pass on the run-up to the war and the actual invasion--go read Maureen Dowd on that one. That, my friends, is the real outrage; that, my friends, is why I can't bring myself to give a shit that some players took "performance-enhancing" drugs.


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8:55 AM  

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