All-star games… for the love of the game?

8 07 2007

National Lampoon’s Hawaiian Vacation!

So the MLB All-Star game is less than a week away, and whilst the game has more relevance than the opposing games that the other major sports have, should it really have a bearing on the regular season? Other pro-sports… the Pro-bowl’s a joke – we should just give the game it’s just desserts & call it “National Lampoon’s Hawaiian Vacation”.nba-all-star-weekend.jpg The NBA All-Star weekend has lost all relevance to the game it represents. When your game’s biggest headline is from a rival sport’s miscreant ‘making it rain’, and the event is seen as one of the premier parties of the year (rather than sporting event), you’ve screwed it up pretty royally. And the NHL… the regular season’s lost relevance to John Q Public, so the All-Star game isn’t even a blip on the radar.

So back to MLB… the winning league in MLB’s All-Star game get’s the home field advantage for the World Series… so you’d better believe that players from the top teams who make this game are going to bust a butt. But… is it the answer? Giving a single game that much weight, that it can decide the outcome of the Fall Classic… well, that’s a huge jump from the 2002 event when the game became so much of a joke that it had to be called before it even ended. Thing is, as has been said by many commentators on the game, with the voting in the hands of the fans, it’s never going to be a true representation of who’s an ‘All Star’. It really becomes a popularity contest.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, but should it decide home field advantage… I don’t think so. Home field advantage should go to the team playing that has the highest win/loss ratio. Just as it does in the NBA. But how would that effect the MLB All Star game? Hugely. But I’m not sure that it matters. The All Star game should be a celebration of the sport. It should be played for the joy of competing, for the athletic bliss of competing at the highest level. I know – pipe dreams. But it used to be like that… not just in baseball, but all pro-sports. Being an ‘All Star’ used to have meaning… now more often than not, players are willing to shirk duty they have to their fans for little or no reason at all. And the games have suffered as a result.

Who’s to blame? A little bit of everyone. The simple fact is that sport’s gotten way too big on many different levels. Players earn too much, and the real or feigned fear of an injury is something that is used altogether too much these days. What happened to playing for the love of playing? Sure, it’s there… but only in players with less than 3 years of experience. Beyond that, they all seem tired & jaded. All a variation of the same theme… every man a Rod Tidwell clone shouting “Show me the money!” Barry Bonds hit in the Home Run Derby? Forget about it… not going to happen. So what if it’s going to be in the park of the only fans in the country that will cheer him actually being there?

We can’t look to the governing bodies of sports. There’s too much pressure on them to make the All-Star game ‘relevant’. That almighty fickle attention span of the sports-fan needs to be captured so as to maximize earning potential. Gotta satisfy ESPN, or whichever media outlet is pushing this particular game.

All Star game…Fans expect too much. Nowadays, with so much media readily available at our fingertips, we need the game to have meaning. It’s not enough if it’s simply ‘a game’. Fans have too many other options… TV… cable TV… the internet… We the fan now have the attention span of a 2 year old – something’s gotta happen every 5 minutes, and it’s gotta have meaning. We’re beyond the age of ‘I want my MTV’, and into ‘I want my ESPN’… hell, with the age of YouTube et al upon us, maybe it’s even beyond that now.

Baseball and basketball, the ‘USA vs [insert-other-nation]’ games at meaningful international events have, in a lot of ways, replaced the All Star games. The Olympics, World Championships (for basketball), and the World Baseball Classic all are played with the attitude they makes it evident that they matter.

Ultimately tho’, only the fans can alter the way we (the fans) perceive the games. I don’t believe that All Star games should have an impact on the regular season… but neither do I want them to be merely an excuse for a party, the game itself a joke. I want it to be a celebration of the sport itself… I want players to play the game for the love of it, and as a ‘returning something to the fans’… I know it’s never going to happen… but I can dream, can’t I?

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9 07 2007
Cheap Shots #42: Elgin Baylor, Expert At Lemonade. « Signal to Noise

[…] All-Star Game determining WS home field ought to go. [With Malice] […]

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