I’ve always loved baseball. I even wanted to be a major leaguer one day. (Only one thing stopped me: a complete lack of talent.) Baseball’s not the same anymore, though, mainly due to agency.
Free agency’s not evil. For one thing, it’s not named Karl Rove. For another, it resulted from the spiking of the odious reserve clause that had kept athletes contractually bound to club owners for years.
I don’t begrudge players becoming wealthy enough to purchase, say, their very own oppressive Middle Eastern kingdoms, but, geez, come on! They’re filthy rich, the owners are filthy rich, yet apparently it’d be un-American or something for the two filthy rich groups to get together and decide to quit milking the game (and fans) dry.
Perhaps nowadays, though, it really would be un-American since baseball -- historically reflective of the nation at large -- isn’t the only quintessentially American thing that’s had its core horribly disfigured by the exclusive pursuit of the buck almighty. Shockingly, our very country itself has suffered a similar fate!
That’s right, sports fans: In corporate-controlled America, it’s an error of Bucknerian proportions to do anything because it’s “the right thing to do.” Otherwise, you’re a patsy, a wimp, a weak sister which, come to think of it, perfectly describes today’s customer, ripe for being “serviced” in all ways imaginable, some of which should not be discussed in mixed company.
And just who are buggerin’ Big Business’ biggest boosters? The Bush bunch, baby. From whom does the White House receive its signals to go wild on the (permanent Iraq military) bases? The neocons, natch. Between global hit-and-runs, where do neocons hang out to talk strategy? At cozy clubhouses like the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
Pity poor PNAC as they fret on the ‘Net: “Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?” I wonder: Whose “principles” and “interests” are these? Yours? Mine? Aunt Minnie’s? With Bush leaguers like PNAC founding members Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz sittin’ in the catbird seat, perhaps they’re more like those instead of Halliburton and other cellar-dwelling sellers from hell that keep the administration’s line-up of all-time thuggers and fellow fascist hit men unbelievably wealthy, no matter how many times they’re caught stealing.
Despite PNAC’s anxiety, however, about safeguarding said “interests and principles,” they glaringly drop the ball when it comes to supporting a characteristic truly critical to our American essence, one which, coincidentally (or we’d be sans column), happens to be the very thing that’s sadly gone missing from baseball: tradition.
In trying to dig out every last dollar, baseball’s heart, its tradition, has been trashed like so many steroids-laced syringes. The sanctity of previously separate National and American League records? Long gone, thanks to interleague play. The thrill of watching two teams competing for the first time in the World Series? You can tell it goodbye; now, they could’ve faced off during the season. Crushed, too, is baseball’s captivating continuity: these days, you can’t follow the players with a scorecard.
Concomitantly (how’s that for a word from out of left field?), even an umpire can see PNAC’s wild pitch about establishing “globally preeminent [U.S.] military capability” has put the squeeze on other long-standing American traditions, like, for instance, the time-honored precept of not picking on someone smaller than you or, as we used to say on the playground, not slaughtering a defenseless country’s inhabitants so you can take their stuff.
Or how about no torture, no matter what? I always kinda liked the no torture rule (except occasionally when it came to my kid brother; sorry, Matt).
What about the tradition of having the right to an attorney if charges were brought against you? Or having charges brought against you, period? Those were the days.
Some other fine American customs of yore that have slid into befouled territory: a free press; verifiable elections; protection against unreasonable search and seizure; a government free from religious coercion; war being declared by Congress as opposed to it not being declared (but executed anyway) by the president -- or even by some guy who thinks he’s president.
I realize some might prefer calling a few of these things something other than traditions, like, say, “constitutional liberties.”
I used to, too, back when there was a Constitution.
The bottom line now, though, is the bottom line, the imperialistic chase of which is responsible for chewing up many once-fine aspects of American life and spittin’ ‘em out, just like so much, uh, spit (the constant ejection of which by players could be the rare tradition baseball could do without).
Only time will tell if baseball’s and/or America’s lovely lost traditions will someday rally and the causal crony crapitalists are given the heave-ho. As baseball goes, so goes America, so if the American League ever gets rid of the horses**t* designated hitter, there just might be hope for the country yet.
Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator and hopeless Giants fan who lives in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2006 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.
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