Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Past Due for the Pastime

Baseball's house is in disarray. Many thought that MLB hit it's nadir in the years following the 1994 strike that shook fan confidence (and, in my humble opinion, cost the Chicago White Sox their best shot at a pennant in years). Then came 1998, that wonderful year when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire made us love the game again.

Well, I should have not let my boyish optimism overtake my adultish cynicism. It was all a veil of lies, steroids and egos run amok.

Jose Canseco is a dirtbag: always was and always will be. Mark McGuire is a liar and any legacy that he might have had is fading fast. Barry Bonds will convict himself by his silence. If dodging the rules, lying to each other and cheating are the national pastimes, then baseball fits right in.

Yes, I am one of those fans who "went on strike" against baseball after the 1994 strike, but over time I came to forgive them. Last season, with the Red Sox, was quite exciting. I am, however, having increasing trouble keeping interest in sports. They are showing all of the worst signs of the American cult of celebrity that seems to have become our sole civil religion.

Perhaps it was the lack of a lot of these stardom issues that made the 2004 Boston Red Sox so nationally popular. There were no real "stars" on the team. Just a group of talented athletes playing the game they love and, in the end, giving all praise and thanks to the fans. That is what it should be about. Professional basketball is in even worse shape.

What to do? Here is my radical plan for baseball. Have two leagues: one where steroids and performance enhancing substances are illegal and there is a "zero-tolerance" policy. Use steriods or anything like them once and you are gone. The second league will be an all-drugs allowed league. Let these guys take whatever they want and turn them loose on each other. Sure, there may be fights and other problems, but at least it will be out in the open. This is what they wished the XFL would have been for football.

Let's take it all the way. If not, I may not be able to justify being disappointed in the White Sox for another year.

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