By Jason Keidel
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Last week, on another network, former NFL lineman Mark Schlereth discussed Tuesday’s All-Star Game, an event of the fans, for the fans, voted by the fans.
“What do fans know about baseball?” he asked profoundly. “Absolutely nothing.”
Forget the galling elitism that exemplifies his employer’s corporate ethos. Forget that the fans funded his path to three Super Bowls. Forget that fans allow him to live a lavish, post-football career, where he muses from swanky studios and makes soap opera cameos. He misses the fact that the viewers, readers, listeners and ticket buyers are the only reason that they play games.
So let’s leave it to baseball to decide who plays in the All-Star Game. Fans are supposedly so unsophisticated that they’d pluck Yasiel Puig — baseball’s version of Linsanity — over Freddie Freeman, if given the chance.
Wrong. Freeman got the nod from the oh-so-ignorant proletarian.
Wrong. He picked Michael Cuddyer. But his logic was impeccable.
“He was a few years older than me, but we grew up a few minutes from each other,” Wright said. “He was kind of the first high draft pick out of our area. I really credit him for a lot of scouts discovering that area.”
Leave baseball to MLB, which turned an eternal cheek while juiced-up golems shredded the record books, essentially synthesizing our pastime’s history. No sport is more wed to statistics, and no sport’s stats are more dubious. Paint baseball’s pantheon over the last 15 years, sans Mariano Rivera, and you’ve got a jailhouse lineup of juicers. Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Allegedly, of course!
A-Rod was so overwhelmed by the avalanche of evidence that MLB has on him vis-a-vis Tony Bosch and PEDs, he took the fifth, met for over an hour with union officials and missed his rehab game, according to Bill Madden of the Daily News. Depending on your source, A-Rod will miss anywhere from 50 to 150 games to the rest of his career.
Leave football to the NFL, where the allegedly preeminent franchise drafted an alleged murderer and a backup QB who once assaulted a police officer and just got popped for a DUI. This is the league that did nothing to help crippled pioneers like John Mackey die with dignity, leaving Mike Ditka to act as a surrogate for the wounded icons, walking around with a tin cup begging for donations. The league that waits for its retired, beleaguered behemoths to kill themselves before they begin to admit that concussions could be a problem.
Leave it to the NBA, where the Knicks are keen on signing the progenitor of the most galling brawl in NBA history. Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), tough guy extraordinaire, thought it wise to leap into the stands and go Mike Tyson on drunk fans half his size. The league that employed a referee who bet on NBA games. The league of Latrell Sprewell.
Leave it to hockey, with three work stoppages over the last decade, relegating the sport to the back alleys of obscure cable channels. Can you name the last five Stanley Cup winners? Exactly.
Leave it to track and field and Marion Jones and Tyson Gay and, um…
Leave it to my first love, boxing, the sport of Don King and Jose Sulaiman, the most crooked capos west of Havana … The Floyd Mayweater-Canelo Alvarez bout in September could be the last mega-fight the sport will ever see.
Remember, say, 30 years ago, when you walked into McDonald’s and some smiling, eager young gal wished you a great day and couldn’t wait to take your order? Now you walk in and find the charming chap with the neck tattoo and a broom handle through his eyebrow. Eventually, he nods at you, giving you permission to enter his space. He doesn’t say hello, goodbye or thank you. You’re lucky just to get some ketchup with your fries without a fight.
That’s what sports have become. The entire apparatus is so swathed in entitlement that you, the fan, the customer, client and de facto employer have become lost in the tornadic narcissism. You’re just too dumb. You didn’t play the game.
Yet professional sports endow writers with the power to vote players into their Halls of Fame. Writers, who are fans with a pen, know enough to bestow the sport’s highest honor, but you who do not write are instantly and eternally too obtuse to regulate something as facile as an All-Star Game.
Monday is the first day of the year when no major team sport is playing a game. I bet Schlereth doesn’t know that. If he’s the standard, if the Knicks, Mets and Jets are smart, you’re better off being stupid.
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