Were You Not Entertained?

7 08 2007

by mr. travis

bonds homer

The long, twisted road to the home run record once owned by Hank Aaron came to an end this evening as Barry Bonds, America’s # 1 enemy (ahead of Osama bin Laden of course), hit number 756 into the stands at A T & T park, to a standing ovation, fireworks, some nice grandstanding by Mr. Bonds, a humble message from Hank Aaron, and a drunken Mets fan who caught the home run ball suddenly making himself much richer. Yet, no sooner had the celebration ended (with Bonds heading to the bench where he will most likely find himself for the rest of the year), the sniping began as commentators on ESPN asked the most overused question out there, whether or not the record is tainted, while beat reporters everywhere began typing away for tomorrow’s newspapers, hoping to get their two cents in on an already worthless pile of wheel spinning nonsense. In the end though, it all comes down to this:

Were you not entertained?

Baseball and by extension, sports, is entertainment. It’s been that way since the day that Babe Ruth began making more money than the President of the United States, which was a result of the owners realizing that if you sell something extraordinary, the people will come and they will come by the bunches. If it wasn’t entertainment, if it was played AND watched for the love of the game, one run games would be king. The small ball would cause moments of glee from even the most casual observer. A pitchers duel would garner huge ratings, causing people to stop in their tracks to marvel at the might of the opposing arms.

But, none of these things happen. Because baseball is boring, or so they say. It’s too slow say other critics.

Ultimately, the game is about money, a problem that began far before Barry Bonds came along. One could trace it back to Catfish Hunter, after he made his escape from the Oakland Athletics and their cheap ways, a move that opened the door to collective bargaining, multi-million dollar deals, incentives, strikes, and ultimately, the steroid craze. To achieve such deals, to reach those incentives, the players had to better themselves. It wasn’t about records at the time, it was about the almighty dollar.

It wasn’t until baseball found itself at the bottom tier of the four sports that the records began to break. Whether by chance or by design, these records were welcomed with open arms by baseball executives, owners, and Commisioner Bud Selig who bestowed upon Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa various praises and gifts. But, those in charge of baseball weren’t alone in their praises, the people, whether it be the fans of the game or the casual observer looking for the next media frenzy, latched on, giving baseball a newfound popularity. The people were entertained and while being entertained they were willing to forgive such glaring oddities as Mark McGwire’s biceps, bulging to He-Man size while he slammed home run after home run.

All of this good will began to change around 2004, coinciding with the sudden interest by Congress into the steroid problem, the death of Ken Caminiti, and Barry Bonds breaking the single season home run mark a few years before. Suddenly, Bud Selig was an avid steroid buster, despite his league having one of the most lenient steroid testing systems in any of the major sports. If Selig or any of his constiuents were serious, he would’ve implemented a system that would mean instant elimination from the game if caught. That surely would have eliminated the problem. Instead, the steroid chase has been nothing more than a witch hunt, a back and forth between Congress, the MLB, Bud Selig and its fans all of which are hypocrites for their behavior.

Such hypocrisy is the root of not only the issue at hand, but at the American consciousness as well. For Congress to go after baseball, yet allow football to go along unchecked with their nonsense steroid policy is absurd. To see Bud Selig, regretably standing for Bonds as he tied Hank Aaron’s record is ridiculous: If Selig thinks Bonds cheated, then he needs to come out and say it, not stand behind his nonsensical, obligatory congratulations and backhanded compliments. Curt Schilling, one of the more open anti-steroids baseball players out there had his day in front of Congress to bust open the scandal, but instead he kept his mouth shut, waffling worse than McGwire (a fact that is very rarely brought up), keeping his ire safe for his blog and radio spots. The fans are even worse off, they hate Bonds and supposedly hate steroids, yet they watch his games, either on TV or in person, giving into the games played by the networks, placing their hatred on one man, despite the fact that there are several candidates for steroid users that are just as bad as Bonds.

In a lot of ways, the anger of the fans seems misguided. They (and this includes the sports media and Congress) spout their mouths off about the unfair advantage given to steroid users (instead of simpling saying that steroids are bad because..well, they are an illegal drug). But, looking at it that way, don’t we all take an unfair advantage by using “enhancements” throughout our lives? When you wake up in the morning, walk into the office and drink a red bull to wake up, isn’t that an advantage over the co worker who abstains? That Beatles tune that you love, was that not created off of some sort of mind enhancing substance, giving them an unfair advantage? That viagra pill that you popped, doesn’t that give you abilities unnatural for a middle aged man?

In the end, baseball is entertainment and it has been that way for sometime. Someone new will come along and break the record set by Bonds tonight and he will go down in history as a villain, someone who cheated the sytem for personal glory. But, while you tell your children of the evil Barry Bonds, remember that it was you who cheered the home runs, watched the games with enthusiasm, and bought the tickets that propagated this charade when you could have just as easily gone to your local high school and watched people play for the love of the game. Of course, if it were for the love of the game, both the players’ love and the fans, baseball would never have found itself in this position in the first place. And for that, we only have ourselves to blame, for in all of our hypocritical glory, we only wanted to be entertained and, unfortunatley, entertained at any cost.

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