Here is the second in my amazing sports series "Why I ... Sports." The last one, Why I Hate Basketball was perhaps the most fascinating and useless take on the sport ever. Now, I will turn my incredible insight on baseball - the national pasttime (we'll get to that).
Baseball is the weirdest sport of all to me. I am pretty clear on what I feel about most sports, but baseball is like chips and salsa to me. I am not one of those "order chips and salsa at every restaurant" guys, but if a bowl of them come wandering by, I won't hesitate to cram them in my face at a fairly rapid rate. In fact, I never order them or eat them unless I'm with a group, or a person who likes them. Baseball is like that. I can discuss it ad nauseum with anyone because the rules haven't changed in forever. I'll even watch it if I'm with people who want to, or if that's all there is on television, or if it wanders past my face. When I read the sports page (in print or on web), I will check the stats and standings. But I just don't go out of my way to watch it. In fact, my general feeling is that I dislike baseball.
Why do I dislike baseball? Oh there are many reasons.
1 - The season is entirely too long. 162 games? The stinking thing runs from Spring Training in February to nearly November. It is hard to get too excited about individual games because they don't mean anything. Sure, this past year races were decided by one game. But, in general, a game that takes place in May has no bearing on anything, except for three or four teams.
2 - As I have complained about in basketball, I hate sports that you immediately can just write off over half the league right out of the gate. In baseball, it is even worse because there are many teams that stink and will always stink. Is there ever a surprise team that makes a legitimate move? Can you imagine the Devil Rays next year winning the World Series? No way, that doesn't happen in baseball. The last place team and perennial doormat never wins the championship. It happened in football just a few years ago with the Rams.
3 - Drugs. It makes me angry that steroids have made McGwire's record and Bonds' records questionable. I am not foolish enough to believe that there is not steroid use in other sports. They just aren't as obvious, and they at least act like they are doing something about it. The first time you get caught with steroids, you get a 10 day suspension? What is the equivalent of that in other jobs? The first time you steal money you get suspended? Or the first time you sell secrets to another company, the first time you hack into a computer, the first time you cheat on your taxes? All of those get you fired or arrested. In baseball, you get a 10 day vacation.
4 - The league is run by an extra from Pirates of the Caribbean.
5 - It is a bad thing to like the Yankees. I say I'm a Yankee fan and I get blasted. I was a NYY fan back when they were terrible. I liked them through the Winfield and Mattingly years, when they never made the playoffs. I may not like everything they do, but they are my team. I have read that cheering for the Yankees is like cheering for the referees. Of course, this person was a Red Sox fan. Which brings me to point 6.
6 - Is it required for every sportswriter to be Red Sox fan? What happened to the days when sports journalists and reporters had to keep their allegiances quiet? Go on ESPN Page 2 sometime and see the number of Red Sox fans that write for them. And if they aren't, they still hate the Yankees. I am so tired of the Red Sox. They won. Woo hoo. Now so did the White Sox. I was hoping it would make them shut up - but they were even more obnoxious this year.
7 - Injuries. There's getting hit in the face with a ball (which is absolutely horrible) and then the class of arm injuries (rotator cuff, ruined elbow) which do sound very nasty. But then you get dumb injuries in baseball. You run into the wall, throw your back out sneezing, pull a hammy running to first (Ken Griffey Jr), break a nail slapping a ball (ARod), get spiked, break your hand punching a wall. Most of baseball involves standing and sitting, with bursts of swinging, throwing, and running. Basically that also describes a night of toilet papering houses. What are you saying, that you aren't as healthy or aware as a drunk fraternity guy?
8 - The mismanagement and ridiculous devotion to tradition at the expense of the sport is sickening. They call themselves America's pasttime. And yes, it is now past time for them. They are too self-important to use replay, even though it would help. The umps are all egomaniacs and will never admit they blew a call. The player's union has a stranglehold on the sport. Bud "the Dead Pirate" Selig is a big wuss. The league allows owners like the Tampa guy and the Pittsburgh guy to consistently embarass the MLB by putting a sub-par team on the field.
Yet, every August, September, and October, I find myself watching the games. I cannot ignore the playoffs. I watched most of them this year as well, even though my team went home early. Part of that is because I want to see the Yanks stuff another ring down everyone's throat. Part of it is that I love watching the Braves find a new way to lose in the playoffs and then hear all the talking heads say how "they were so gutsy to even get here." But part of it is that I actually enjoy the game. I like to watch it and to follow it. There are just too many things I don't like about it that keep me from getting to involved. For example, I love fantasy football. I've played for five years and enjoy the whole process. I tried baseball one year and came in dead last. The problem was that I didn't follow the sport every day to know every guy on every team. I only have to check my football teams twice a week. If you don't have a daily ritual with baseball, you get destroyed. I'm willing to give a sport three months - four if it is really good, five if it is football. But to give a sport nine months? That's a baby, not a sport.
Baseball is too much effort to really get into, it takes to long to have a sense of completion, and it has too many warts to really embrace it. It is actually a lot like chips and salsa. Part of the reason I don't eat them more often is that it is too much work. You have to get the chips, get the salsa, get a bowl. Then each chip has to be retrieved from the bag, dipped in the salsa, stuck in your mouth. Then you have to run to the kitchen to get water because you grabbed the hot salsa by accident. Then you eat some more. Then you have to roll the bag up, put a clip on it, put it away. Then put the lid on the salsa, wipe the drippings off the side, put it in the fridge. OR, I can grab a cookie, take a swig of milk out of the bottle, and be done. They both are satisfying -- it just depends on how much of an effort you are willing to make.