Monday, July 04, 2011

A Ray of Hope for the Republic on Independence Day

Maybe it's just me. It often is, after all. But watching both the selection show on TBS and the Baseball Tonight crowd on ESPN, as well as sampling print media and the Internet night this morning, leaves the distinct impression that our national pastime, and hence nation, may have given up on that most pointless, irritating and stupid of artificial arguments, the "All-Star team selection controversy."

Not even C. C. Sabathia is too upset he didn't make the American League All-Star roster. I have yet to see anyone point out that according to the votes of baseball fans, the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers are fielding one of the greatest lineups in history. Fading immortal Derek Jeter elected to start almost by acclamation while fading immortal Ichiro Suzuki (for years the leading vote-getter) doesn't make the team? Illogical and who cares?

Could it be that the baseball world has come to see the Midsummer Classic for what it is, a classic publicity gimmick? The All-Star game was invented, by a sportswriter no less, as a marketing ploy for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair and for a sport which was on the verge of financial collapse due to the Depression. It worked brilliantly for many years, less brilliantly for many more years after than, and as all human inventions must, has become what Madison Avenue and television call a "mature" event, "mature" meaning "maybe your grandfather still cares."

The tell that the All-Star Game had run its course as a sports event that held meaning for its audience was of course when Bud Selig gave the game a reward -- World Series home field advantage to the winning team. This reward is too nebulous to have meaning for the All-Stars themselves ($250,000 a man winner-take-all, on the other hand, then you'd see some double plays broken up). Therefore, it has no meaning to the audience. Fans take their cue on how to feel about a game from the people in it.

Not that the All-Star Game isn't fun, at least for three innings or so, until one loses track of who's playing. Publicity gimmicks are supposed to be fun, and as noted, the Game in its day was the best publicity gimmick baseball had besides Babe Ruth, the ultimate human brand in sports. The idea of an exhibition game of the sport's best players retains just enough of its inherent appeal to keep the event viable.

But care about it? Not even your grandfather. And that's a good thing. The All-Star Game is no longer news as we define sports news. I'd argue, however, that a game which offers the spectators pleasure without requiring anyone provide ancillary hysteria IS news.

In the doesn't-happen-every-day department "Man Bites Dog" has nothing on "Hype Strikes Out."


Post a Comment

<< Home