"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal." -- George F. Will
"Baseball is dull only to dull minds." -- Red Barber
Although I enjoy just about all sports, there is nothing that compares to baseball. For true baseball fans, the love of the game is something that cannot be explained. You either have it, or you don't. This morning I was treated to a couple of visceral reminders of this truth. First, my wife had TiVo'd Field of Dreams. And although I had a ton of things to do today, I found myself completely engrossed (again) in this gripping film. Baseball is a common bond among all Americans share, even those who don't necessarily call themselves big fans. It has been an integral part of American culture since the Civil War, a fact not lost on Walt Whitman:
I see great things in baseball. It's our game -- the AmericanContrast this view of baseball with Bill Plaschke's column in this morning's LA Times. Plaschke references the last Harris poll in which only one baseball player, the Yankees' Derek Jeter, made the top 10. Does this make sense?
Their faces, down to the last drops of brown juice rolling from the corner of their bottom lips, are on television for six months. Their habits, from hemlines to hairstyles, inspire as much childhood imitation as a Hummer full of rappers. More than any other athletes in any sport, they are constantly in America's face. While America scrunches up its nose. We really don't like baseball players anymore, do we?
Plaschke's ire was provoked by the response of the Dodgers' Jason Phillips to MLB commissioner Bud Selig's proposal of a steroid policy that would mandate unpaid suspensions of 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third offense. Asked how he felt about the proposed penalties, Phillips seemed to think that they would be too harsh.
Phillips, who makes $339,000 a year, complained that Selig's proposal of unpaid suspensions ranging from 50 days to lifetime would hurt guys in his tax bracket. "Do I think the penalties are a little harsh? Yes," he said. "Not for, say, the guys who have already been in the big leagues a lot of years and are making millions. [But] put yourself in my position. I play paycheck to paycheck to support my family."
Easy there, big fella. I live in LA, too, and I'm quite sure that any family pulling in over 300g's a year is doing just fine. Phillips isn't the first millionaire athlete to make stupid comments about money, and he won't be the last.
But is spite of this antipathy towards the players, baseball last year set an attendance record and is on track to do so again this year. Why? It costs fans more than 100 bucks to see the game and enjoy a few beverages with the family, but more people than ever are showing up. How can this be? Plaschke knows the answer:
But it is the game we love. It is not the players. Not anymore.
It's been that way for a long time, Bill, maybe from the very beginning. Shoeless Joe knew that, too.
But if I have to explain it, you won't get it anyway.