Seriously, there ought to be clowns. I’m speaking here of America’s Pastime, baseball. Specifically, its highest professional variant, the so-called “Major Leagues”
“What’s this,” you ask? “Why do you hate freedom,” you may decry. But I can’t be any more clear in my sentiments these days. I no longer like MAJOR LEAGUE baseball. Baseball in and of itself I still love, and most likely always will. Despite long games, archaic rules and a seemingly high barrier to entry for non-sports playing adults, I believe baseball is a beautiful expression of who we United Statesians are as a people.
But the Majors? I’m taking a pass. Most likely for a very long time. 2012 marks the first time in 15 years that I have not attended an Opening Day game. I was online, with money in my figurative hand ready to buy some tickets, despite my “record” low attendance of one game (Opening Day) the year before. And then I saw the price of those tickets, and declared war on the owners.
More accurately, I acknowledged a state of war that already existed. As a baseball fan, I’ve long known just how ridiculous ticket prices are at the big ballparks, how much concessions are marked up to rake in the cash, and how little ballpark revenues and player salaries actually contribute to my enjoyment of the game. Baseball is about a shared experience, something you can relive and retell long after the final pitch.
But this year, the owners raised prices on every seat in the house, after a second straight losing season and one of the most inept years of the franchise. I was being asked to pay $23 for what were once $5 bleachers. The Mariners’ off-season moves resulted in a worse defensive team than the one they’d fielded the year before, all in the elusive dream that “we’re going to turn this thing around with some quality leadership.”
Now where Have I heard that before? Hmmm…
For this fantasy, I should bleed money? I resolved yet again to watch sports on my large and impressive television, rather than set my cash on fire at the altar of transcontinental corporate greed.
And much like my presence at opening day, that didn’t happen either. Not once. I tried, really tried to watch a whole game at home, regardless of market or league. I even picked up an internet radio subscription package, to listen to games from around the country whenever I wanted. But voluntary participation in the failure rodeo was never quite interesting enough for me to submit to the owners’ passive-offensive offensive.
Early in the season, I was pulled in to a corporate outing to the ballpark. I was at first excited, thinking that my co-workers would at least be interested in rooting for the opposing team as many of them hail from Texas, and the Rangers were playing that night. I think the Mariners came, I’m not sure. After some adventures in mass transit, we got the entire party (some 15 strong) through the gates, and I grabbed some ballpark fare and headed up to our seats, hoping to bask again in the warm glow of thousands of fans enjoying baseball.
Me and the crickets ate hot dogs for about 25 minutes in $23 bleacher seats (blessedly discounted to $12 for the night) before I was informed that “we’re not in those seats, we’re hanging out down by the bullpen bars.” What could have been a grand re-ignition of my baseball passion ended up as a hyper-caloric couple of hours grazing along the new kiosks, because no-one there was really interested in baseball. Including the Mariners bullpen, who had the appearance of sad, dejected men praying for death.
This was May, by the way. The M’s had won four in a row to pull within five games of a non-losing record, and despite a brilliant performance from some kid I’d never heard of, someone forgot to wake up the Mariners bats.
Once the dust settled, I boarded a bus for a mirthless trip home, thinking about all the other things I could have done with my night. I felt it was important to be there with our co-workers, and given that while there one of them told me he was leaving the company, I’m glad I got to spend that time with them. But baseball, once my consuming passion, was now the ex-girlfriend that all my friends like and keep seating me next to at parties.
Perhaps that’s a bit much, but I have roughly the same feelings for both. and given attendance around the leagues, I’m not alone.
Later in the year, after I no longer had those co-workers (or any, for that matter), my friends who still like baseball (and who never knew my ex) asked if I’d like to use their third ticket for an afternoon game. Given that just one week before, I had toyed with the idea of going down to the ballpark myself to see if there was still some romance left in the world, I was willing to give it another shot.
That previous week’s game, by the way, was perfect. The stadium was less than half-full, and the barest fraction of those present understood what was going on. Also endemic around the country.
In fact, this year three such games were pitched, one of which was also IN SEATTLE. Instead of celebrating a feat so difficult that its only happened 22 other times in 150 years, the next day’s headlines were full of economic plans and various smirking white guys.
Baseball was no longer important in my country, and everyone knew it. No-one could justify the game to me anymore, and in truth, no-one even tried.
The game wasn’t that exciting, but it was at least tolerable. I got to spend three good hours with some of the people I love most in the world, and the Mariners were there too. Think of it as a school reunion, when the ex shows up but never is close enough to talk.
Would I have gone to another game in the last few weeks of the season? Perhaps, but not if there was anything else to do that day, like laundry or dental surgery. I had occasion to do both, and baseball in Seattle ground down to a halt a few weeks ago (another losing season, in case anyone wasn’t aware). But the Seattle-free post season was coming up, and championship play is the highest form of the game, right?
Not so much, it would seem. Last year at this time, I was drinking my way around San Diego watching the World Series play out in truly epic fashion on televisions in various bars. All the drama, all the passion I remembered was on display, and the fans really reminded me of why I like the game.
Last night, the 2012 World Series ended in a 4-game sweep, and I never saw one minute of play. My experience of the playoffs was akin to that of rural fans 100 years ago, delivered in new articles and by word of mouth. Fans, I might add, who could recite box scores and highlights THEY’D NEVER EVER SEEN over and over again to their friends, who never grew tired of hearing about it.
The Boys of Summer have gone, and with them my youth. The War for my soul is over, and the winner is entropy. I’m not saying I’ll never attend an MLB game again, but I’ll be damned if I pay anything for it.
Because I’ve got laundry to do.