Monday, August 27, 2007

The REAL Boys of Summer

The 2007 Little League World Series just finished up this weekend at South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I watched as many of the games as ESPN would show over here.

I won’t make it a secret—I rooted—and did so strongly—for the eventual American round-robin winner from Warner Robins, Georgia in their quest to vanquish the little leaguers from Japan, who were the winners of their own tournament against the rest of the little league-playing world. Basically, the way the series tournament works, it’s the USA against the world.

For baseball, it’s more of a true “world” series than the supposed world series that Major League Baseball claims to have. But truthfully, at this point, when it comes to major league baseball and its spoiled players and blundering owners, I have nothing but contempt. In fact, the Detroit Tigers, my “old team,” and the New York Yankees, the team I used to “love to hate,” are playing each other this very second on ESPN, and I could NOT care less.

There are more than a few reasons I developed this total disdain for MLB, and for that matter, for pretty much ALL professional sports. It started in 1990 when “my Tigers” decided not to wear an armband for “the troops” during the 1st Gulf War, unlike the rest of the major league teams, which did. The Tigers were the ONLY team that didn't. Lou Whittaker wouldn’t wear it, so the rest of the team deferred to him.

I was one of the “those troops” the Tigers decided NOT to support, so, I decided in turn to end my own 30 odd years of support for them. When they lost their shot at a world championship last year I felt smug satisfaction. My brother tells me I should get over it, but I guess the old phrase "Hell has no fury like a woman scorned" applies to me as well, especially when it comes to being scorned by my erstwhile favorite team.

The more money these nimrods have made over the years the bigger jerks they’ve become, and that goes for the jerks playing in the NBA, in the NFL and even in the NHL. The more millions they’ve made, the more they’ve wanted, and the more they lost sight of what’s important—namely, the game itself, and the fans of the games.

Remember the baseball strike in 1994 and 1995? Well, I do, and I’ve NEVER forgotten it. When they, the players and owners, put their already bloated paychecks and revenues ahead of the game and the fans, I put THEM out of my mind. Screw ‘em. Hell, they didn’t even play a world series that year. The jerks!

In spite of myself, in 1998, with great excitement I watched Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa duel it out over who would end up breaking Roger Maris’ single season homerun record. I was even in the St. Louis stands that September when McGwire hit a frozen rope over the left field fence for number 63.

Then, I found out that both McGwire and Sosa, and MOST of the rest of MLB, took and probably are STILL taking steroidal type strength enhancement drugs—and to think I actually believed them when they all used to claim that their huge muscle-bound bodies were the simple result of protein supplements and weightlifting. Was I an Idiot or what? Don’t answer that…

Speaking of steroids, it’s an open secret that Barry Bonds has taken them for years as well. In case you haven’t heard, he just surpassed Hank Aaron’s career homerun record. As far as I’m concerned I now feel betrayed by ALL of these charlatans. NONE of the records of the last 25 years should count—they should be discounted—including Bond’s, McGwire’s and Sosa’s.

Actually, Bonds has already beaten McGwire’s, so McGwire doesn’t even matter anymore. Just the same, strike them ALL from the books. No wait; I don’t CARE what they do, because I don’t watch ANY of them—ANY more—ANY way!

My pent up disgust for all things MLB came on unexpectedly yet again and boiled over as I watched and listened yesterday to one of the little league world series TV announcers--I'm pretty sure it was Dusty Baker. He was one of three announcers of the semi-final game between Georgia and Texas. I erupted angrily when he made an asinine comment that really brought home just why I despise the professional level these days. Baker is a retired major league outfielder and manager and he made his ridiculous remark after a Texas little league player hit a "dinger" against the Georgia team.

As the hitter began his circuit of the bases, the first baseman of the opposing team congratulated him, as did most of the rest of the Georgia infielders as the hitter passed them--they all touched hands with the passing hitter as a sign of sportsmanship — the kind of sportsmanship that ideally SHOULD, but DOESN’T exist in the majors. I believe it was Brent Musburger who remarked glowingly about that small exchange of esteem between the young players, while instead, the cynical Baker reproached, “…I’m not sure I like that. It’s a little too much to show that kind of respect for the other team.

How outrageous was that! At the moment he said it, all the loathing I’ve developed for the major league game over the years came spilling out of me in a small storm of rage. His outrageous comment did nothing but bolster exactly why I DON’T care about HIS game. I’d rather watch T‑ball between 8 year olds than ANY MLB game.

Here’s another bit of mean spirited MLB idiocy for you. When the major leaguers complete a game the winning team gets in a line and congratulates EACH OTHER while the losing team stalks off the field, seemingly in a pique of childish displeasure. At least in the NFL you’ll see the opposing players walk off the field together, and usually they will be talking to each other like adults and even shaking hands.

What’s wrong with that small manifestation of open friendliness and respect between opponents? I enjoy observing these days even a trace of graciousness between players, mostly because its so rare anymore. Coach Baker be damned, there’s nothing wrong with two teams shaking each other’s hands after a game and telling their competitors they played a good game, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, showing it to the crowd as a shining example to the young and impressionable.

And there’s certainly NOTHING wrong with opposing players remarking “good hit,” or “nice catch.” It’s still done in professional golf, with its omnipresent “nice shot,” and “good putt.” That’s why golf is the ONLY pro sport I still follow, BECAUSE of its continued stress on good sportsmanship and courteous play.

For me, that miniscule level of regard between players is a sign of hope that even a small speck of civility STILL exists in our ever increasingly uncivil society.

Heck, if you want to see acted out barbarism and savagery, watch professional wrestling, another so-called professional sport, which is really nothing but a joke on ourselves, since it seems to be a telling indicator of what many of us truly think are admirable American male traits--big, loud-mouthed, angry, steroidally-muscled maniacs. Oh wait, was I talking about WWE-styled wrestlers OR MLB baseball players? Anymore, what's the difference?

Speaking of telltale examples of brutishness in our society, every time I see a brawl on an NBA basketball court, or on an NHL hockey rink, or on an MLB baseball infield, I feel as if there is no hope for any of us. It tells me that people can’t even play a simple game without trying to ram each other’s teeth down throats.

And WHO sees that insane violent out-of-control garbage? Why, little leaguers of course, the boys and girls who follow every steroidal move that those crazed big leaguers make.

It’s been popular in the past couple of decades for professional players of all the sports to claim that they don’t consider themselves to be roll models. Well guess what? They are absolutely right. The REAL role models are those little leaguers I watched over the past week. I watched them play their hearts out for no money, and I saw them congratulate and respect each other without a trace of rancor for their rivals. Now THOSE are the REAL boys of summer!

10 comments:

Ed Abbey said...

The day I start watching professional baseball again will be the day that the rules are changed so that the winning team has to pee in a cup immediately following the game and anyone caught doping thrown out just like in professional cycling.

However, just by luck I caught the last ten minutes of the "world" championship and saw the homerun that ended it. Back when I was in Little League, I spent hours dreaming in right field of being that guy.

Kevin said...

What a rant. Dude. It's just baseball. Baseball. We are talking about the ultimate "if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin" sport.

Stealing signs, Scuffing balls, Greasing balls, Corking bats, Filing spikes, Steroid enhancements, Headhunting pitchers, racism, it's all part of the drama of the game. The video of Bud Selig when Bonds hit 756 is priceless. He looks like somebody just S#!+ in his mess-kit. Once again, part of the game. This is on a par with Judge Landis banning the 8 Chicago White Sox players for gambling after the courts found them innocent. He didn't care what the courts said. They were guilty in his court. Didn't matter that their owner was a slimy turd. It's all "part of the game" The steroid era is just another chapter.

Also, the Detroit Tigers during the time of the first Gulf War were a completely different team than today. Different ownership, different management, different players, different stadium even. You wanna be pissed at Tom Monahan and the rest of that bunch, fair enough. The current team had nothing to do with that decision. I think you give these guys too much credit in the first place. They are just jug-head athletes. There are exceptions, of course, but generally pretty one-dimensional personalities.

I am a season ticket holder for the Saginaw Spirit Hockey team. The team holds these meet and greet events for "VIP's" like me to get extra access as a bonus for buying season tickets. I never go. I don't wanna know these guys. I just wanna watch 'em play hockey. They don't fit in my culture any more than I would fit in theirs.

There. There's my rant.

Katana said...

And now that thesekids are on TV, the leagues descent into corruption is imminent. I don't think kids sports should be televised; parents begin to push kids, and kids begin to believe the hype that TV always brings.

Either way, I can't bare to watch sports on TV.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Ed, I played a little outfield, very little, only in pony league when suddenly I wasn't as good as the rest of the guys my age. Where THEY shot up 11 or 15 inches, I had to settle for a measly 5 or 6. Before that, I was a pretty good 3rd baseman and pitcher. For me, making a good play was good enough. Being the hero just didn't appeal to me. I just loved to PLAY!

Kev, that ain't drama, its melodrama, and I personally don't need it. And as for the Tigers, I don't care if its a different team. I never heard the organization apologize for what they did, or didn't do. I lost the love and its gone forever. Now, I search for sport in "pure" form, but as Katana cynically intimates, sports purity is a fleeting thing.

Kat, you might be right. Ultimately, all those boys with all that talent and good sportsmanship, they ALL have a favorite MLB player. Eventually, of course, just as you claim, "the system" will find a way to screw up those innocent kids, to make them just as corrupt as their "heroes." Your job as a psychologist will be to help "unscrew them." Its ALL good for you, right? ... chuckle ...

Amadeo said...

Yes, saw that game-ending homerun as a news highlight less than an hour ago. And those kids play on same-sized fields as the major leaguers?

Last May, for the first time saw Bonds play at home, trying to break his 745. Since we were close to homeplate, took some pictures of him swinging hoping to record a homerun. The locals still love him, all the bad things notwithstanding. So I just went with the crowd, cheering and getting excited.

I suppose my baseball heroes and memories are frozen in times long past. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, and Sandy Koufax. Including Maris, Mantle, and Hammering Hank. Mostly larger-than-life characters for us young kids growing up 7000 miles away.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Amadeo,

Nope, a little leaguer field is a tiny version of a major league field. Check out the dimensions for each in wikipedia.com. That website is amazing for immediate access to virtually any info.

Bonds. Obviously the man is a talented hitter. All the strength in the world doesn't make someone a good hitter if they don't have the hand-eye coordination. Thing is, HE CHEATED! If his fans want to get excited over his "accomplishments" they might as well cheer for a mechanical hitting machine, because his records are worth about as much. People willing to get excited over Barry Bonds do so for the same reason audiences choose to get hyped over watching professional wrestling. They KNOW its fake, but they DON'T CARE. I'm sorry, but that qualifies as pathetic.

I agree with you that the real baseball greats are from the past. They were real people who used to ride the subway to the games just like the fans. Can you imagine players doing that today? I seriously doubt if I ever pay to watch any pro game ever again. They've lost me.

Ed Abbey said...

I sucked at baseball which is why I ended up playing right field and starting in about the fifth inning.

Funny though as an adult, I played softball and was considered one of the better players on my team playing shortstop and first base.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I know what you mean Ed. Its pretty common for half the lads to develop faster than the other half. It happened to me where I went from a pretty good player at 12 to unable to make first string at 13 and 14. I just moved on to other sports.

But, when I was 29, suddenly I found myself playing ball again, this time it was fast pitch. I pitched for 8 years straight until my shoulder gave out. Now THAT'S a sport!

Katana said...

Ok, you're operating under the assumption that all psychologists are clinical psychologists/therapists... you seem to have forgotten the other part of psychology; the experimental side. I do research. I have no ambition of becoming dr Phil or Dr Laura so I can spend the rest of my life advising people on their personal dramas.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Actually, I know a research psychologist. I guess many of them do it as professors. I met Dr. David Lester here in the Philippines during an outing to Sagada back in '85. He's a good guy. I guess he calls himself a suicidologist. He teaches at Pomona College in New Jersey. I don't blame you for wanting to do what he does since he does't seem to do all that much! He teaches once or twice a week and lectures all over the world. Can't beat that.