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Thursday, July 29, 2010

To MLB, or not to MLB

I got into an email argument recently. It's like a texting argument, only more queer.

The topic began somewhere, then evolved to ranking favorite sports to watch live. I had the audacity to rank NBA and MLB games above the hallowed NFL. This led to a bunch of baseball bashing, complete with the most commonly used cliche arguments against the sport. Its a boring, slow, simple game, played by non-athletic people who used to maybe use steroids. All BS, of course, but whatever...

Within that email thread, only myself and a Puerto Rican guy were willing to defend the game. We pointed to the history, the unwritten rules, the unique complexities of the different ballparks, the Ken Burns documentary, and all kinds of other things that made me realize that even I was beginning to bore myself.

How did we get here?

Many have and will point to the Steroid Era as what ultimately has done the game in. I can't wholeheartedly disagree. The media likes to point to the early 2000's as the height of the Steroid Era, but if you look closely at the numbers (and film) the case can be made for steroids being a part of the game as far back as 25 years. It matters because in a game that is so reliant on sheer numbers to impress an audience that admittedly has to endure a lot of inaction throughout the course of a game, having almost three decades of tainted play is a concern.

I grew up in the Steroid Era, pulling for a San Francisco Giants team led by all-time homerun leader Barry Bonds no less. An unlikable guy, doing unfathomable things, with unknown amounts of illegal assistance (allegedly). Time has come to reveal that the best player on my favorite team was far from alone in this. I more than understand the current hangover effect that may have set in America's conscious about the game.

As a fan though, I don't want it to be that easy. There are a lot of good things happening in Major League Baseball right now. Seventeen of the thirty teams are still in contention for either a division title or playoff spot. There have been five no-hitters this season, and it isn't even August. Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg is showing to be worth the "Lebron-esque" hype he'd been receiving since being drafted. Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton may be the first athlete to pull the reverse "Lawrence Taylor", going from crackhead to Triple Crown MVP. The New York Yankees...wait...fuck the Yankees. But you get my point, right?

I have to believe that all is not lost. As the picture above alludes to, baseball is in a rough patch right now. The game is scuffed. It's unclear how, if at all, it will be able to pull through. Strip away all the ancillary stuff, though, and you still see the only thing you need to see, and that is the ball. In the end, that should be all that matters.

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