Hey Baseball! Embrace The Yawns!
Brace yourself, Major League Baseball wants to be spicy. They say they are trying to "spice things up for the 21st century" by having the winner of this month's All-Star game take home field advantage in the World Series. This silly gimmick is another sign of baseball's near pubescent identity crisis. They are examining every pimple and blemish, whining about why the cool kids don't like them.
Their desperate gimmickry brought me back to a simpler time way back in the salad days 1992. I was attending a May game at the sold out Metrodome in Minneapolis. I made this pilgrimage to the Twin Cities because legend had it that the Dome would get so loud seats would become vibrating cushions. But after 30 minutes, I wasn't seeing it at all. It felt like Quiet Time after recess. I tried to wake everyone up with a little We Will Rock You chant in the indoor stadium. Granted, I may have sounded (and looked) more like Fred Flintstone than Freddy Mercury, but that didn't prepare me for what was about to occur: a fan about 50 yards away, shushed me. He shushed me! His simple shush has tattooed itself on my brain. Not because it was so loud or even rude, but because it echoed. The dome was so quiet that the shush actually produced an echo.
I looked around at the reclining fans and could only conclude, with a smile and a shrug that baseball is an aging sport, and it didn't bother me at all. I came to grips with the fact that like soft-shell crabs, yellow mustard, sour dough bread, baseball is an acquired tastes born of wisdom and appreciating beauty where others may only see boredom.
That was more than ten years ago. The baseball of my youth may have been becoming yellow mustard, but at least it knew what it was: a past time - something you did to pass the time. It wouldn't make the Entertainment Weekly "IT LIST". But at least it was growing old with dignity. That has changed.
There was a time when Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier were both dashing young actors, chained together in the classic flick The Defiant Ones. Now Poitier is an elder statesman who could probably be elected Pope and Curtis is a bewigged playboy who can't get hired to sell Viagara. Baseball has gone in ten years from being Sidney Poitier to Tony Curtis.
Under Commissioner Bud Selig the game wants to return to the days when it was the National Pastime in a taximeter paced 200-channel world. It is profaning itself to do it. First it was expansion and interleague play. Now the All Star Game- as the Matrix style ads tell us- "MATTERS, BABY!" (I'll take the blue pill, please).
Please, tell Bud Selig that baseball will never be edgy and hip and made for Fox TV. It's embarrassing. Have you ever seen your dad try to be "cool"? I had a friend whose father had a big handlebar mustache and a little ponytail. When he would see me he'd say, "gimme some skin" while my buddy would blush scarlet. Bud Selig is sporting the fu-man-chu.
I love baseball. But it's time for tough love. You know it is when its most vocal and public defender isn't Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez, but probably George Will sounding like he was selling Quaker Oats or Metamucil, and waxing poetic about "the time honored traditions" of seeing baseball "men and work." Now, according to Sports Illustrated, the number of African-Americans playing baseball is down exponentially. Believe it or not more people "wanna be like Mike" than "wanna be like George Will."
But on one level you could always give baseball some respect because it wasn't going to try to be something it wasn't. It is a beautiful, exciting, at times painfully boring game. It is not a game - as I discovered - for Queen rock anthems. It is the Free to Be You and Me League, and there is nothing wrong with that. Get Bud Selig, his Ray Ban sunglasses and his identity crisis out of our game. Aint nothin' wrong with an acquired taste.
Now if you'll excuse me please, I'm eating a yellow mustard sandwich on sour dough.