Sunday, March 13, 2005

State of Baseball

Are you a baseball fan? Sadly, so am I.

I say 'sadly', because lets face it, baseball has kicked us in the teeth for over a decade.

What do I think of all the latest 'steroid' scandal?

Well at the purely political level, I think its ridiculous that the government regulates any substance that a grown adult and a physician have agreed to use. The fact tobacco, alcohol and other prescription drugs are legal, while other chemical substances are 'banned' is the height of hypocrisy.

Okay, enough of the libertarian rhetoric, what do I 'really' think of the steroid scandal?

I think its a by-product of baseball's economics and I think its a by-product of the fact that in order for baseball to thrive in the days of luxury suites, 25 dollar bleacher seats and 4 dollar hot dogs, it needed to make a 'big splash'.

My passion for baseball, has diminished since the 1994 season. That strike was ludicrous and the return of baseball in 1995 brought us a baseball that famous pitchers like Curt Schilling insisted were wound tighter, to produce homeruns to bring fans back.

Curt Schilling was given a gag order for speaking out about the baseball and mixed with the heavy steroid use of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa eventually produced the 1998 season that truly brought baseball back to the limelight.

Was it a rouse? Yes it was.

Was it a sham that was ignored and perpetuated by both owners and players? Yes it was.

Has it tainted baseball? Yes it has.

Does it really matter? No it doesn't.

Baseball, is and always has been a mirror to the culture which gave it birth. Babe Ruth symbolizes the decadence of the 1920's, Joe Dimaggio symbolizes the birth of American pop culture abroad in the 1940's. The 1950's show America's birth of the "jet" era, as the west opens up and two New York teams flee to California.

The list goes on, we have Jackie's historic appearane on a major league team in 1947, the cocaine scandals of the early 80's and the advent of free agency in the narcisstic 70's.

Now, we find that in the years that fueled the corporate fraud of the dot-com and Enron era, baseball was dabbling in its own form of fraud: it produced a baseball and produced players 'enhanced' with substances. The combination of the two smashed and destroyed their own record book for the sake of money and ratings.

I ask you though, is a juiced baseball and steroid laced Barry Bonds, really any different than cooking the books to help a lagging stock on the Dow Jones?

I am not so sure it is that different at all. In fact, I think you could dial up 100 American companies and probably find transgressions that are worse a Mark McGwire who grew his biceps with chemicals and shattered the Roger Maris record.

Baseball will surive, it always survives. If it can survive 1919, it can survive anything.

And baseball will always be dirty, it will always cheat, it will always lie to its fans and it will always be guilty of the very prejudice, greed and dishonesty that perpetuates society itself.

Sadly, believe it or not, that is part of baseball's charm and part of why it is such a cultural centerpiece in America. There is something magical about baseball, primarily because it provides us with a historic link to the very aorta of America, both the good and the bad of America.

It's why I also say, that sadly, I am indeed a baseball fan, because baseball is a dirty corporate sham, a spectacle played on a stage of grass and dirt, for the sole sake of producing filthy lucre.

In other words, it's just like the very country we live in, a country I happen to admire and respect a great deal.

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