Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thanks, A-Rod: Part 2 - In Defense of a Great Baseball Boycott 2009

Why stop now, huh? Now Miguel Tejada has pled guilty to perjuring himself in front of Congress. The American public may have scoffed at Congress's show on steroids, but that doesn't mean it doesn't count! (Remember that when you're called before Congress for your part in the baseball steroids scandal.)

Yesterday I spoke on the troubles of a GBB 2009: feelings of powerlessness, feelings of defeatism, the dilemma of what one man can do, and the problem of loving baseball. But today, I'll focus on the case for another baseball boycott (ideally, a more successful one).

To spout a cliché, I worry about the children. That's hardly unique--any elected official within shouting distance of a microphone has expressed the same opinion. I know parents feel the same way. But then that "having it both ways" business enters the picture again, and it reminds me of an example written by an Orthodox priest about talking out of both sides of your mouth:

Remember, little Nikita, don't have sex before marriage; but if you do, remember to use protection.

What?

If one finds premarital sex morally repugnant, why offer options? But what does this have to do with baseball?

Remember, little Nikita, taking steroids can hurt your health and it's cheating. Now, let's go to the ball park, give a standing ovation to the player who just got back from a steroid suspension, and talk about his four year, $100,000,000 contract. Sound like fun?

Okay, probably no one who wasn't oozing sarcasm would word it like that, but the lesson is clear. And that's why I worry about the children: moral wishy-washiness on the part of the parents, the teams, the players, and the law which fails to work despite the illegality of steroids. Yuck.

That's one reason why a baseball boycott seems in order. I know this country is teeming with people who love to take their kids to the ballpark because they want them to have the same experiences they did as a child. But I have to ask two questions:

1. Is the current product really the same experience? When you were a kid, did you see sleek, accomplished athletes, or did you see Philistines (the biblical kind like Goliath, not uncultured brutes, although you could make the argument) at every position who yelled, "HULK SMASH!!!" whenever they hit the ball?
2. Need it be Major League Baseball?

Here it comes, I can feel it: "Chandler, who are you to tell me what to do? You don't even have kids!" Rub it in, why don't you. But here's the truth: Sometimes I think having kids makes parents a little stupid, so a healthy dose of perspective is always in order. Still, I don't want to be thought of as implying that parents should shield their youngins from baseball while I watch NESN to my little heart's content. Just because I have no direct impact on any young minds certainly doesn't mean I don't care--I'm the one who's been babbling on about this for two days.

Seriously, should one take a moral stance only because children exist in the world? No! Baseball lovers must do it for love of the game! We should stomp our little feet in anger because the purity of the turf is tainted and Barry Bonds isn't playing on the same field as Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron! It's just wrong! Screw the children! The Great Game has been ruined by batardos the size of Mount Everest who only want stupid, meaningless home run records! THESE EVIL FORCES MUST BE STOPPED!!

How wonderfully cathartic. Anyway, back to the two questions above: It's not the same game. Fox really ought to stop showing highlights of games past during the World Series because it shows much too clearly the changes, and the viewing several are no longer so naive as to think it's natural. Is it really possible to watch baseball nowadays without a look of alarm on your face?

The second question was about whether it needed to be Major League Baseball? I realize that I live in Texas with its proud tradition of ... Dallas Cowboys football. Since baseball only gets mentioned here when someone needs a good laugh, I understand that it's easier for me to toss aside the MLB than it would be for a Yankees or Red Sox fan. Still, though the MLB has an anti-trust exemption, that doesn't mean it's monopolized the baseball market. (And yes, I am patting myself on the back for that one.)

College Baseball: In particular, the 2009 Houston College Classic! We're heading to Houston at the end of this month to view this fantastic extravaganza. I realize that not every area has such an event, but if you're a fan of the ping of metal batts, this is right up your alley.

College Summer Baseball: Genius. Summer baseball leagues give college players the chance to play with wooden batts. The Texas league collapsed (crazy lawsuits--few teams remain) and it's remarkably popular in Alaska, but if you live in the New England area, hie yourself to a Cape Cod League game and be sure to keep a program. The Cape Cod League is practically a guarantee of success with 2/3 of its players going on to the Majors.

Minor League Baseball: Dicey, I admit, but Chris tells me that they're independently owned (so no money goes to their Major League affiliate) and they actually have a worthwhile testing policy. The MLB could learn from their systems.

Vintage Baseball: You really want an experience for you kids? Try vintage rules baseball. Okay, I admit this one is lame, but if those players are juicing then it's just sad, sad, sad.

I've said my piece, I've thought this all through, and I still don't know if a GBB 2009 is a good idea. Yes, if one finds steroid use repugnant, then one ought not to support it. At the same time, we needn't fool ourselves into thinking that baseball is the only sport with the steroids problem (just the one with the flimsiest punishment system)--why adopt a hard stance on one sport and none of the others? And can any amount of outrage stop players from taking the undetectable human growth hormone?

I leave it up to the jury of gentle readers. I personally will be steering clear of Major League ballparks; taking in some summer league (maybe even a little Cape Cod League while I'm in the Northeast?), some minor league, and perhaps a little vintage baseball; and reveling in the wonder that is NESN. And we'll cross the playoffs road when we get to it.

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