Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bad Hops

I watched most of the MLB All Star Game last night. I didn’t want or need to. I started watching because my son was watching, and he wanted me to share the sports experience. I picked up the game in whatever inning Cecil Fielder’s little boy hit a home run to give the National League the lead for good. I kept watching after Thomas went to bed, but I did channel surf in between innings. I was not a committed fan, if there even is such an animal when it comes to this exhibition game.

The All Star squads this year were packed with 84 honorees, and seemingly twice as many who were chosen but could not attend due to various ailments. I pictured them walking into Bud Selig’s office, and like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack screaming, “Oh, oh my arm! I think it’s broken!” in order to gain a pass from the festivities. I didn’t want to watch, and perhaps that was because no one wanted to play.

That is not to say that the game did not count for anything. In one of baseball’s classic attempts to be “hip” and inject meaning into the meaningless, the winning side of the Midsummer Classic earned home field advantage in the World Series for that league’s representative team. That means that in the best of years, no less than 75 of the 84 participants will not collect any benefit from the outcome of the game. Pride as a motivator will only go so far when the players on the field make enough money to buy all the pride they can carry.

Famous players don’t play. Well paid players don’t make the squad. Fans can vote up to 25 times for their favorite players, so big markets get overrepresented. I could go on, but this is not an anti-All Star Game rant. I have a bigger fish to fry here.

I did not see this happen, but I did read about this exchange that was televised by Fox during the broadcast. It’s an in-stadium conversation with superhero, Justin Timberlake:

Mark Grace: It’s a pretty good spot. Now you wanted ballpark food. Peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs, which one’s your favorite?

Justin Timberlake: My favorite? Just beer.

Mark Grace: Really? Beer! It’s kind of the perfect food.

Justin Timberlake: It goes with the hot dog, it goes with nachos, it goes with peanuts. Beer’s perfect. Beer never got mad at me because I didn’t call beer back.

Mark Grace: That’s a very good point. That is a very good point.

Yes, Justin Timberlake, baseball’s answer to Joe Namath on Monday Night Football. Since baseball has lost its standing as America’s Number One Sport to the boys on the gridiron, they thought “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Let’s glorify beer and drunkenness just a bit more as a path to growing the fan base. Good plan.

For context, Timberlake made these comments to former MLB 1st baseman, Mark Grace, who was busted for a DUI a month ago. These comments were preceded ten minutes earlier by the story of the untimely death of Nick Adenhart at the hands of a drunk driver. Now, in fairness, the very first pitch of the game was sponsored by Budweiser, so it’s hard to blame Timberlake for being hammered at the ballpark. He was merely promoting the brand.

My son and I just finished a trip (upcoming blogs to chronicle that adventure, so stay tuned) to Citifield, Yankee Stadium and Cooperstown to explore and grow our love of the game, and this is what MLB serves us up as a defining event. Drinking beer and watching sports are forever linked at the hip. I get that. I would prefer that the symbiotic relationship wasn’t celebrated quite so publicly while my 12 year old son is still learning the intricacies of the double switch.

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