|It's batting practice|
Must-see TV? No way.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
By Jacob Luft
So, anything on the tube tonight?
I mean, anything that could possibly make me turn away from the latest versions of Big Brother (let me guess: the guy with one leg wins) or Who Wants to Marry Joe Schmo's Blind Father? or whatever other crap the networks have been showing these days?
Apparently there is something big going on at Minute Maid Park, where the All-Stars and a bunch of Hall of Famers have gathered for a glorified batting practice they call the "Home Run Derby."
If I do tune in, it's for the same reason I watched a midget carry 50 pounds of raw beef on her back for eight city blocks on The Amazing Race last week -- it's trainwreck television.
Chris Berman will be shouting at the top of his lungs -- when is he not? -- to display his geographic knowledge of the host city. Surely, Lance Berkman's home runs will be landing in such renowned Houston neighborhoods as San Jacinto and Katy.
If Berkman really gets a hold of one, it will reach Galveston -- at least according to the bombastic Berman.
What exactly does the "winner" of tonight's gala event get, besides a subpoena from the grand jury in the BALCO case, that is? Will Barry Bonds, already having been questioned in the case, realize it is in his best interests to tank it tonight? Surely he knows that winning will only provide fresh ammunition for his legion of cynics.
Will I tune in? Probably. The likelihood of humiliation is too good to ignore.
|Grip it and rip it|
Go get 'em, Barry.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
By Gennaro Filice
When Barry Bonds starts cocking his bat back and forth, a strange feeling comes over me: assurance. Every time Bonds enters the batter's box, I'm absolutely positive a ball will be blasted into orbit.
In a sport in which failure dominates success, this type of feeling is very rare. The certainty keeps my eyes glued to the action and takes away my ability to blink.
This is the intrigue of the Home Run Derby.
Baseball's equivalent to the Dunk Contest provides an atmosphere otherwise foreign to baseball, in which the certainty of success runs rampant.
Sluggers who usually see more junk than a garage-sale vender get belt-high pitches floating over the plate. For two hours, fans see the world's finest hitters annihilate the baseball. Serving up gopher balls at such a rate they might as well be pitching for the Orioles, these batting-practice hurlers create a twilight zone in which the home run -- baseball's signature achievement and most awe-inspiring play -- becomes commonplace.
The derby has something to satisfy every level of baseball fan. The purist enjoys the bat speed produced by the amazing quickness of the sluggers' hands through the zone. The casual observer digs the speedy, no-nonsense pace that is not usually practiced on a baseball diamond. And most everyone takes pleasure in the fact that baseball, a complicated and poetic game, is briefly broken down to John Daly's simple motto: "grip it and rip it."
For one night, every hitter shows me at least a few must-see, tape-measure shots I knew were coming before the ball even left the pitcher's hand. Basically, every hitter becomes Barry Bonds.