It would have sped up game"s demise So the baseball players have decided not to strike. The regular season, playoffs and World Series will go on as scheduled. Dammit. I"d been hoping for a baseball strike. In fact, I"d been praying for an end to the season, and the next, and the one after that, too. I look at baseball the same way I regard the Republican Party. At best, it"s a minor annoyance. At worst, it"s a threat to the American way of life. At one time, baseball was America"s passion. People huddled around radio sets to hear the World Series games. People streamed into the bleachers at Wrigley Field in anticipation of seeing the Cubs beat the Mets. And I used to be one of the people in love with baseball, too. I kept scorecards for every game I attended. I could give you the definitions of GW-RBI and the conditions under which a pitcher can get a save. I even cared about Sparky Anderson"s personal problems. But no more. The baseball strike of 1987 permanently cured me of any affection I"d had for the game. After being addicted to the game for years, I discovered it was possible to get through a summer without it. I didn"t have to follow the pennant race. I was freed to listen to Husker Du and the Replacements without interruption. I could watch TV without seeing the Reds or Cubs highlights. I didn"t miss it at all. And, with the zeal of a reformed addict, I tried to get my friends to stop wasting their time watching the game. I openly mocked Babe Ruth. I pissed on the grave of Dizzy Dean. I spit in the general direction of Vin Scully. Eventually, they all gave up on the sport. They got tired of one too many rain delays, one too many bench-clearing brawls, one too many $100 million contracts. Occasionally, I am forced to monitor a Reds game when I work master control at Channel 65. I don"t root for the Reds or their opponents, I root for people to make outs as quickly as possible so I don"t have to watch the game. When I do have to pay attention to it, I"m astonished at how slow and tedious the game really is. It"s about the only sport in the world without a timeclock. Games can go on for three hours, or five or 10. It"s only natural that a pretentious egghead like George F. Will would love baseball. It"s outdated, boring and of no consequence whatsoever, just like the policies Will advocates. People like Will who rhapsodize about the game aren"t in love with baseball as much as they are with nostalgia. They don"t love the sport as much as they love the memories they have of bygone eras, when a beer cost a buck or less and when Harry Caray used to drunkenly croon during the seventh inning stretch. I, too, have good memories of games at Bush and Riverfront and Wrigley. And I"d still consider a trip to Wrigley if they held concerts or lingerie shows there. But I"ve moved on. The subtle nuances of the game make it worthwhile, people say. Baloney. There are no nuances. It"s like military life: Hurry up and wait. Thirty seconds of frenzied activity are followed by 25 minutes where nothing happens. Whatever magic baseball once had, it lost all of it sometime in the 1980s. Times change and people were no longer as willing to pay premium prices to watch a millionaire scratch his crotch for 20 minutes between pitches. Other sports have replaced baseball in the minds of children. Kids don"t worship baseball players any more than they do Fortune 500 CEOs. They root for NBA and NFL and even soccer teams. People, like me, who grew up watching the game have abandoned it. In my youth, there were courageous stars such as Hank Aaron, who battled the ghost of Ruth as well as every racist in the U.S. There was the inimitable Big Red Machine, whose starting lineup I can still name after 27 years. There was even little Freddie Patek, of the Kansas City Royals, who at 5-foot-4 was the shortest player in professional sports. The game back then had excitement and drama beyond wondering which player will get arrested for domestic violence or drug charges. The sports pages weren"t filled with news about contract negotiations. Entire seasons would go by without the danger of a strike. And there"s really nothing short of a major rules overhaul to save the game. Lowering the ticket prices would help, starting World Series games before 9 p.m. would help and voluntary salary caps would help. But they would only be temporary fixes to a much bigger problem: namely, that baseball is boring as shit and most people don"t like it. I watched a game the other night that was filled with passion, energy and excitement. The players were genuinely thrilled to be participating, the action was nonstop and the skill level high. It was game one of the WNBA Finals between the Los Angeles Sparks and the New York Liberty. Some of the greatest players on the planet were playing as hard as they could and the sold-out audience loved it. Even in the few moments where there is action in a baseball game, fans don"t seem to be excited about it. I"m disappointed there was no strike, because it would have been an opportunity for baseball to lose its few remaining fans. The strike of "87 cured me of my baseball addiction, and I was hoping that the strike of "02 would do the same for a new generation. Once again, baseball has let me down.
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