Friday, December 14, 2007


I'll tell you what. You can tell me how popular football is or basketball and I still don't think either is America's sport. You can rattle off numbers about ratings and I'll just respond, American Idol dominates in ratings. Is that how we should define our good TV? If so, then stop talking because I'm done with you and there's a good chance I won't respect your opinions. Ratings...The funny thing about ratings is that they don't tell the story entirely. But something big happened yesterday and MSNBC decided to delay their airing of the last Democratic Debate before Iowa in favor of presenting the Mitchell Report, a severe damnation of America's greatest sport. There's something profoundly gentlemanly about baseball in our collective memory. It isn't a group of men smashing into each other hoping to breach in order to get to other side of a field. It isn't men or women rapidly putting a ball through a hoop. No, baseball is paced. Its cold and calculating and the plays occur in a blink of an eye and then slow down to a wonderfully manipulated and countered spot. Baseball has never been home to gentlemen, let me preface this. Uneducated, gambling, drunks, and womanizing lot have dominated the sport since its creation. Yet its the sport of gentlemen somehow. The man most responsible for the game as a sport of gentlemen is most likely Walter Johnson. You may ask who? He was a fantastic pitcher who had a 20 year career as the finest pitcher maybe ever. He threw so hard that it terrified hitters. Except he never wanted to hurt anyone because he played fair in his eyes. The man was a hero to many and always played with honor.
You may be wondering what this has to do with the Mitchell Report. Well, its about honor and heroworship. You see, outside of baseball, soccer is the other global sport that reaches the world on an unimaginable scale. Baseball has a firm entrenchment in American history too. The 7th innning stretch is a tradition based on William Taft not being able to fit in his seat. Take me out to the ball game song was a broadway hit. Singing the national anthem started in baseball before all other sports. Baseball is something wonderfully American yet it is everyone's. Its a sport that is democratic in its nature. Ask Arod about what its like to be on a team where you're the only good player. No you need everyone to work or you all fall apart. I could go on forever because baseball is a sport I love. I love being at the game with anyone and eating that hotdog that I don't know what its made of. I love sitting at home yelling at the TV...honestly, I do that for other sports too but baseball is something that I will watch any team though my Cubs are supreme. Its the sport I look forward to every year when my team is eliminated from a chance at the World Series chance. "There's always next year." My entire life I haven't seen the Cubs in the World Series. In my grandfather's lifetime, he hasn't seen them win one. In all this, with Bartman, with bad luck, with just pathetic teams, it was this week that baseball broke my heart too.
George J. Mitchell was a well liked senator. He could have been a Supreme Court Justice. George Mitchell loves baseball and in his post retirement from the Senate, he's done a lot of things. He will now have infamy as the guy who let loose the floodgates on steroids. Its not like we all don't know that so many athletes. Its not like we all don't think Barry Bonds or others didn't cheat. The Mitchell Report revealed a lot about the status of baseball. It revealed that Roger Clemens is the dick we all think he is. When we were in awe of how he was able to play this well as old as he is, he told everyone its because he worked hard. That was a lie. I sat and read most of the Mitchell Report which is 409 pages and felt sad. Not only is it tragic that players who were already talented felt they needed to take these drugs, but there were many players on the list who were just desperate to make teams. There were just as many average players on the list as there were superstars. I'm also angry at many of the superstars on the list because like Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi did this. I can't live it down. I can't live it down that these players needed to do it. Babe Ruth, maybe the greatest hitter ever to play, was not sober for many games and he did what he did.
Many of baseball's stars are cheating and Mitchell details how they went about it. Needles in the club house, meetings to exchange for these drugs, and these players distributing to other players all were efforts to bring this abomination into a sport I love. Its amazing on the list how many Yankees and Orioles are on the list too. I can understand something about the Yankees doing it. There is an absurd amount of pressure put on them. My thing is that the O's aren't regularly going to the playoffs even with a team of steroids. So have we reached a point in baseball where the norm is steroids. If that is the case, I don't know what to do with baseball.
In 1919, America's heart was broken by baseball. The Chicago White Sox threw a World Series. All the White Sox players involved in the scandal were banned from baseball and the hall of fame. It was devastating. It ruined lives and it took something extraordinary to recover from. Babe Ruth saved baseball and made it great again. Baseball used to be just cricket with a harder edge. Babe Ruth made the game a sport. He made the homerun huge and more than just a phenomena. Baseball wasn't broken by Pete Rose. In 1994, we had the strike. I used to collect baseball cards until then. The season was canceled and could have ended baseball. The recovery was extraordinary though. Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig's record really did save baseball. There followed a homerun craze that is not marred by the steroids now but it was great then. With Palmero and McGuire steroid bit a few years ago, the Mitchell Report players, and the increasing costs of going to games, I don't know what saves it this time. Maybe its the influx of talent coming from Japan. I legitimately think the Cubs have to go to a World Series.
Do I still love baseball knowing its full of people who are cheating? Yeah. I can't help it. I want a Cubs World Series really bad. Do I hate the Yankees more because not only are bad people but also because they're bad people who cheat. George Mitchell doesn't think the players should be punished but the tests being more random and more money spent on the tech to keep up. I disagree. I say ban all of them. I say they're banned from the MLB and they can't get in the Hall of Fame. Even if Derrek Lee, my favorite player, was on a list or a future one, I say ban him. I'd make it standard policy after a board makes an overview of what the player did and the evidence and then I'd toss them. This is unacceptable. Will this happen? No. The Players Association would never allow it. But one can dream. Yeah I could write this better. I'm tired, mad, and I'm not going to take it anymore.

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