There are a few things that you can count on in July: summer camp, fireworks, and petty, unrelenting arguments about who did and who didn’t get shafted from the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
The whole thirty-one days thing tends to stick too. But it only takes a handful of them to get the whine-wheel in motion:
(Looking at you, A.J. Pierzynski. Looking. At. You.)
Speared by whine-heads like Ken Rosenthal (seriously, I think the dude gets paid-per-whine), the members of this Nitpick Club, ranging from Ken-the-Master to lesser known associates of virtually every major news publication in the United States, seem more abuzz than the players after the post-game champagne-drenched festivities.
Which begs for the question: why exactly are so many of the nation’s scribes’ expending ink and energy dissecting the rosters of the MLB All Star Game?
Even if we concede the increasingly uncertain claim that baseball is America’s “National Pastime”–Hello Football!–Americans seem increasingly to agree that what All-Star baseball games are to regular season baseball games is what I find meatloaf is to a hot and juicy steak: a very poor, very misguided cousin–the sort your family is always slightly embarrassed to acknowledge as its own.
The statistics don’t lie: with Nielson marks of 7.9 last year, 9.1 the year before, and an 11.2 in 2009, the All-Star game television ratings have suffered a gradual three-year decline, and over the last 17 years, the game has set a record low rating 10 times.
You might think statistics like these would discourage baroque analyses of All-Star game minutiae (or at least reduce their number), but you would be wrong. Hell, even the Christian Post has offered an opinion on the matter. (So apparently Jesus would watch the All-Star game, in case you were wondering.)
But we might also wonder if Jesus (or the egalitarian, altruistic-minded) would spend less time complaining about which players made the roster and more time thinking about who the All-Star game selection process summarily dismisses from consideration in the All-Star game festivities.
You know all those fine men and women who work behind the scenes?
No, I’m not talking about the CEO’s and the Vice-CEO’s and the CFO’s and the Vice-CFO’s etc., etc., etc. I’m talking about the people who make sure those guys’ and gals’ wallets are stuffed with green: the parking attendants, the security guards, the concession-stand workers, the elevator-hostesses, the bartenders, the janitors, the ushers, the waiters and waitresses who tend to the luxury suites, and the first-aid staff. We might also add the ball boys, the clubhouse staff, the guys who clean spittle off the dugout floors, the medical staff, and the gawky dudes who work in accounting.
You know, the little guys.
So, let’s say we invert the hierarchy a bit. Rather than putting Justin Bieber in the batters box, a la the NBA Celebrity Game, let’s make an annual All-Star game for Justin Nobody. Let the management of each team, or better yet, let the staff themselves, vote for the 25 or 30 staff most deserving of the award, and then let the staff members with the most votes in each league participate in the event. Maybe have management throw in a little bonus check for winning the selection too. Make the game five innings if you want. Let them play softball. But give the little guy a chance.
Sure, you might not know his name, but that’s precisely the point. Rather than questioning the status quo, scribblers like Ken Rosenthal reinforce the dubious grandeur of our media-saturated celebrity-culture by niggling over which idols we should pray to. It never seems to occur to them that their petty wrangling only reinforces theirs, and everyone else’s, social position as diminutive by comparison.
Well, maybe it’s time to take a cue from Abraham and smash our idols. Or at least remember that we’re the ones who created them. Because the ratings have spoken and it doesn’t really seem to matter who’s in the game.
Rather than their “idols,” maybe what Americans really want to see in the All-Star game is themselves.