(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
I tried to ignore it for as long as I could. It was like having a picnic on a bright summer day and noticing an insanely large, ravenous, ill-tempered dog begging for food at your right elbow.
You tell yourself to not look at it, so maybe it will go away. You pack up your food and move to the other side of the park, but he’s still there – slobbering, panting, and staring you down for your last piece of turkey and cheese on wheat.
Since that would ruin anyone’s appetite, you leave and decide to try it again tomorrow. But the next day it’s the same thing, except for this time he’s brought a few flea-ridden friends. After a two-day indoors only eating binge, you try your luck at a different park; the dogs are a little prettier and know a few more tricks, but they’re still right up under your grill waiting for a crumb to drop.
Before you know it, you get caught up in the moment and throw the beast some scraps all while muttering to yourself, “I swore I wasn’t going to do this.”
That little scenario is exactly how I feel about Major League Baseball. Each year I try and pretend that baseball won’t happen. I wish each season that this will be the year that Bud Selig finally drives his tired and worn-out nag into the ground.
I mean it’s not that farfetched. It worked with Tinkerbell and it’s finally happened with hockey. Enough people desired strongly enough that it not interfere with their daily dose of SportsCenter and poof!….no more zambonis.
But MLB keeps coming back from the dead like Snake Pliskin, except each campaign results in a new limp, scar, or crazy tattoo.
You would think that by now, most people would have become jaded to the annual sports opera that baseball has become. With former players admitting steroid use, and current players not admitting it, and one crazy former bash brother that says they made him and baseball sexier, MLB makes ‘Passions‘ look like a Hemingway serial.
And like every riveting serial, it has its devotees. These are the people that keep coming back to the parks and buying licensed apparel no matter how many scandals; salary fiascos and surly superstars are thrown at them.
The Yankees-Red Sox series last season and the Cubs recent resurgence have provided some meat for some of the casual fans that were ready to strike out.
However, the Balco trial, Giambi’s mystery virus and Bonds’ stint on ‘The Cream and the Clear’, loom like a late inning third out.
As loathe as I am to feed the mangy, hungry dog, I admit that I am interested in how the season will start. That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit down in front of the TV one June night and watch the Padres, but I will listen for any dirt on the Juice Jockeys.
And it will also be fun to witness some of these chiseled loafers deflate like old balloons.
I have to admit that I will probably break down and watch the All-Star game and maybe some of the League Championship Series, depending on who is playing. I’d rather play ‘Wipeout‘ on my eardrums than tune into many regular season contests – other than the Sox and Yankees throwdown to start the regular season.
It’s just too slow on television, where watching it is like waiting on your Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. And the payoff during late innings is usually as exciting as drinking Ovaltine.
Football may not be fast paced every game and every play, but the anticipation builds for it because they only play once a week. Basketball plays a tad more frequently than the pigskin, but the action is non-stop.
Baseball plays 400 games a year, and they are all six hours long. It’s getting to the point where it seems like pitchers and catchers report four weeks after the season.
I really want to like baseball like I like Sally Field, I really do. I just don’t know if it’s a possibility. I want to like onions too, but I can’t help the gag reflex every time I even spell the word.
Maybe this will be the year. Maybe covering all the excellent baseball and softball teams in the area will make me want to rush home and watch how the pros do it.
At least with high school ball, the reasons, the players, and the game are pure. It’s more like the game Mr. Doubleday envisioned for his still wet behind the ears country all those decades ago.
A game that in no way resembles the snooze fest that takes place in corporate-sponsored beer tents in MLB cities every summer.
So, this year I’ll really try and bring the mutt inside and feed him and try and learn the nuances of what makes him tick. He just better not pee on the rug again.
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