June 04, 2003

I want to be a baseball fan again: The reasons why I'm not interested in the game I loved as a kid.

In my youth, nothing was bigger than baseball. I would fall asleep listening to the Big Red Machine with a ball and glove beside me. Either the game of baseball left me, or I grew out of it, or itís a combination of the two. After high school, I followed baseball on a limited basis through Cincinnati's last World Series win, which was over 10 years ago. Since the 1994 strike, I have only watched a few playoff games. The game got different during the '90's. In my opinion, expansion diluted the league's talent. There are too many minor league players in the majors. The watering down of baseball has caused average players to be all-stars, and the best players to be unbelievable. A few years ago, a sports talk show host said about baseball, "The balls are juiced; the bats are juiced; the players are juiced; and the stadiums are juiced." I agree. The sudden and dramatic increase in the number of home runs indicates major changes have occurred. Baseball allows performance enhancing drugs that are banned in other sports. The fences are closer to home plate. And who knows about the bats and balls. 25 years ago, a player hitting 40 home runs would receive high praise. Today, it's a yawner. When George Foster hit 52 home runs in 1977, it was a huge accomplishment. Today, middle infielders hit 50 home runs. As an adult, baseball doesn't fit my lifestyle. It requires too much time to be a fan. The season and the games are too long, things that never bothered me as a kid. I despise the numerous pitching changes late in a close game when the managers play the percentages and adhere to the lefty-righty rule. I say, reduce the regular season by two months, reduce the number of innings from nine to seven, limit the number of pitching changes, and eliminate at least four teams. Purists would call me and these changes radical. Yet, most of these same people ignore the massive game-changing alterations mentioned earlier. On June 3, my family and I attended our local minor league team's baseball game for the first in three years. We had a great time. Fans of all ages were dancing and singing. Between innings, there were goofy contests. And on the field, there was good pitching and some fine defensive plays. For the first time in years, I enjoyed baseball. While watching the game, I thought to myself that I would like to listen to baseball on radio. It felt like I was teetering on the edge of being a fan again. That night when I went to bed, I tuned my A.M. radio to the all-sports station. The main topic was Sammy Sosa being ejected from a game earlier in the evening for using a corked bat. I ignored the story, since I was more interested in hearing about the NBA and NHL playoffs. Then the world news at the top of the hour proved the Sosa incident was a major event. The top story at Midnight was Sammy's corked bat. The second story was the current Middle East peace process. Then the next news item was about the probable arrest of Martha Stewart for insider stock trading. On the same evening I was considering picking up baseball again, the game's most popular player got caught with an illegal bat. What bothers me is that I'm not bothered by this. I'm further away from baseball than I thought. As an outsider, I don't understand why there's so much furor over the corked bat. There has been a lot of fraud in baseball over the past 10 years, why should this matter? Listening to Sammy's and Dusty Baker's explanations makes me think the players and coaches consider the incident a non-issue as well. Dusty Baker said he didn't know the difference between a corked and an uncorked bat, and he claimes he doesn't know how to cork a bat. Baker is lying. When I was a teenager over 20 years ago, I corked a bat for fun. The annoying sports writers are being melodramatic over Sammy's corked bat. The first articles appeared within hours of the cork spilling onto the field. One writer said it wasn't cork shooting across the diamond but a chunk of Sammy's image. Another writer compared the forthcoming corked-bat conspiracy to the JFK assassination. I don't have an opinion on whether Sammy is telling the truth, or if he's cheated in the past. It doesn't matter to people who aren't baseball fans. I'll let the talking heads debate the issue until they are blue in the face and their eyes have rolled back into their skull. As to me and baseball, I'll stick with our local minor league team as a family outing. Maybe someday I'll once again watch baseball on TV and listen to it on radio. The NFL pre-season begins in two months. I look forward to the start of our nation's true sports pastime.

posted by munger to commentary at 03:48 PM - 0 comments

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