Baseball's hot ... for
Posted: Wed September 30,
As you know, not so long ago, there were a lot of people
who wanted to impeach baseball. The National Pastime was a
disgrace. Critics pointed out that baseball was so ugly
that it was difficult even to let children
hear about it. Baseball's leadership was a laughingstock. Who
could believe in baseball anymore? Some people even
thought that baseball should step aside and let soccer
Now, suddenly it is different. Baseball is joyous. It has
returned to its roots, and is the epitome of sweetness and
light in the United States of America. Why, baseball is
even better than Alan Greenspan slashing interest rates.
Thank God for
Here and there you even hear that baseball is actually
making us forget about all the bad things everywhere in the
world. If only Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Cal Ripken
and the New York Yankees were politicians instead of
athletes, then all would
be fine again.
Mark McGwire's run at history brought fans to the park in droves.
I have myself done research that shows that in the
Federalist Papers, number 32, it was intended that
baseball was a right to be protected by the Constitution.
That particular article was supposed to read: "A
well-pleased citizenry, in pursuit of
happiness, will be guaranteed a free assembly that assures
attendance at games of base ball, wherever in these States
the people choose to foregather for that glorious
But then, as you know, Aaron Burr shot Alexander
The fact is, that we live in an incredibly cyclical world.
What goes up comes down. What goes around comes around.
Yes, but now these observations are not cautionary
clichés so much as they are laws of nature. And
nothing represents our
helter-skelter world so much as the popularity of baseball, which
appears to bounce around almost as much as the Nikkei
averagewhatever that may
And now, the baseball average is sky-high. Be warned. You
might even consider selling baseball short. For all the
wondrous things that Mr. McGwire and his merry band of
diamond heroes have done this season, the sport's
institutional currency is still
devalued. Where the home runs are not being hitare
fans coming out to enjoy the game or are they voyeurs,
merely sneaking peeks at the sexy new stadiums? Even the
Yankees feel they must leave the House That Ruth Built in
order to survive.
And McGwire's magic cannot obscure the fact that the sport
still suffers the most uninspired leadership. Ah yes, the
fans approve of the way the sport is being run ... so long
as somebody is giving them the good times that come with 70
Above all, baseball remains hopelessly partisansplit
between the haves and the have-nots. Only the richest
teams have any hope of making the playoffs. The cutoff
figure this year was a payroll of $47 million. The
American dream simply doesn't exist
for the fans of a lot of franchises in the National Pastime.
Ironically, it is this very issue of competitiveness which
has the National Basketball Association locked out
nowmaybe for much, or all, of the season. Remember?
It was only so very recently that the NBA was being
heralded as a model operation, and
basketball was being saluted as the sport of the millennium.
Now the wise men are shaking their heads at basketball and
moaning that it's as stupid as baseball ever was. What's
going to happen to basketball? And baseball is the new
basketball ... or,
the old baseball.
These commentaries, which appear each Wednesday on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, are posted weekly by CNN/SI.