Thursday, March 02, 2006

I Know That Spring Is Here . . .

. . . despite the fact that my deck sports three inches of freshly fallen snow--because the radio is reporting that the Mets defeated the Cardinals in Jupiter, Florida, today 12-7, boosted in part by a 4-for-4, six-RBI game by new Met Xavier Nady (including a grand slam). Carlos Delgado also had three hits--another auspicious Mets debut.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the off-season hasn't reduced the inanity of some of the baseball conversations on WFAN, the Mets' home station, to which I can't help dialing occasionally in hopes of hearing some gossip about Mets' rookies or an interview with Willie Randolph. I just caught a few minutes of Chris "Mad Dog" Russo ranting about how insufferable he finds Johnny Damon's professions of loyalty to New York and the Yankees after helping win a World Championship for Boston and the Red Sox. The idea is that Damon is some kind of phony for abandoning one team and signing a contract with another. Puh-leeze! As if Chris Russo wouldn't change employers for a twenty-five percent pay hike.

This is capped off by a caller complaining bitterly that "Baseball's not a game any more, it's a business." How many hundreds of times have I heard that line? Considering that baseball has been a business since 1869, I can't help wondering how much longer it will take some fans to get used to the idea. Pretty slow on the uptake, I'd say . . .

If baseball weren't a business, it wouldn't be available for our enjoyment, unless we created leagues featuring only players who are independently wealthy--which would eliminate ninety-nine point seven percent of the players anyone would want to watch. (What kind of TV ratings would polo matches from Newport, Rhode Island, fetch?)

So, yes, baseball is a business. How many more centuries will it take for some fans to stop pretending that this is some kind of tragedy?

P.S. Maybe you wonder why I respond to baseball commentary in the same blog where I analyze the political musings of E.J. Dionne and Michael Kinsley. It's simple: Like millions of people, I love baseball. And it irks me to hear the blowhards on sports radio and TV stations--both hosts and guests--spouting ill-informed, mostly right-wing, social and economic opinions in the guise of sports talk. Countless listeners--especially the young men who make up a big percentage of the audience--have their views of the world shaped, consciously or not, by the silly prejudices they imbibe from sports commentators. I think we liberals ought to do our part to challenge such bunk wherever it appears--not just in op-ed pages or on CNBC but also in sports talk shows, in the business pages, on shows about celebrity gossip, and in all the other places where conservative claptrap gets retailed between the lines.

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