This column is for baseball addicts. Readers who do not suffer from BWS — baseball withdrawal syndrome — during the doleful (for us) baseball All-Star Game break may move on to other of TAS’s fine offerings this morning.
There may have been a time when players and fans cared who won baseball’s annual All-Star Game. Not so much now, when it has become all show-biz hype. All sizzle with almost no competitive steak. The proof for this came with Thursday’s news that the Tuesday night All-Star game from San Diego (which, few seem to care, the American League won 4-2) drew a record low television audience for the second straight year. Fox reports the game got a 5.4 rating and a 10 share. Last year’s record low rating was a 6.6 for the game in Cincinnati.
Ratings are the percentage of homes with televisions tuned to a program. Share is the percentage of households watching among TVs in use at the time. That’s still 8.7 million viewers, about 50 times what a WNBA game would fetch. But still thin gruel for what used to be a major sporting event in a nation of now 320 million.
I don’t know what else was on offer Tuesday night against the game. Perhaps viewers were deserting the game for such heavy-weight diversions as “Antiques Road Show” or “Miss Congeniality 4.” Is “Honey Boo Boo” still on the air? (Of course there are other things to do of an evening than watch TV. Perhaps a record number of cats got flea-powdered Tuesday night, and a few shut-ins arranged the ties in their closets by width and color.) I’ll admit that I had the game on for a short while, though with the sound muted, and I paid little attention to it as I worked at my desk. It was, after all, the only game in town.
Even though Major League Baseball has tried to inject some importance into this otherwise pointless exhibition game by awarding the winning league home-field advantage in the World Series, players don’t seem to take it seriously. Don’t seem to care more than no-show TV viewers who wins the game, witness Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez’s post-game admission that he tried to groove a fastball to David Ortiz so that Big Papi could hit a home run in his last All-Star game. Who needs to watch this kind of thing? First off, Ortiz doesn’t need Fernandez’s help going yard. And imagine the fertilizer storm if Fernandez had attempted this non-competitive stunt in a regular season game. He would have been suspended and fined. But the All-Star Show isn’t a real ball game, so nobody minded.
There are lots of reasons this mid-season game isn’t a game, not least that avaricious players, and even more avaricious agents, now seem mostly concerned that the valuable items in uniform don’t injure themselves in a pointless game. An increasing number of players would far rather make use of the four-day break for rest and rehabilitation than to represent their league (a pretty abstract thing to feel any loyalty to). Many seem to think of selection to the All-Star squad, with game attached, the way Mark Twain thought of being tarred and feathered, to wit: “Save for the honor, I would as soon skip it.” For folks who think this way, and for fans who no longer tune in, the answer is simple. Hold the election for the best player at each position. Keep the four-day break so players can re-charge body and soul. Just don’t play the game.
And certainly don’t bother with such made-up non-entertainment as the execrable Home Run Derby, where buffed sluggers ruin their swings trying to hit more BP pitches into the stands than other buffed sluggers. (Yawn. C’mere Peanut, time for your flea-powder.) The guy who dreamed up the home run derby should get his just deserts. Water boarding is too merciful. I’d strap the villain in a chair and force him to listen to Gerald Ford speeches on continuous loop for days at a time. Cruel, yes. And Lord forgive me. It must be a terrible death to be bored to death. But his offense is great. God will not be mocked.
Relief is on the way. The first regular season games since Sunday are on offer this afternoon and tonight. We’ve survived the barren week one more time. Try to keep busy until first pitch. And don’t be alarmed by those BWS symptoms: unusual anxiety, facial tics, poor appetite, restlessness, insomnia, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, irritation at small matters, poor digestion, and a tendency to sing sad songs in the shower. They will not be permanent. They will slowly diminish after tonight. But they can be a damn nuisance for suffers in the interim, and alarming to their loved ones.
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