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FIRST-PERSON: All-Star prices but no real value

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“They treated it like it was a meaningless game,” David Cuscuna told USA Today writer Hal Bodley. Cuscuna was commenting on Major League Baseball’s All-Star extravaganza after it was called in the 11th inning with the score tied. I have some sobering truth for baseball fans like Mr. Cuscuna: It was a meaningless game.

Perhaps to those who plunked down $175 a person (no typo here, the going price for a seat at this year’s All-Star game was indeed 175 smack-a-roos) for the privilege of being “there,” the game had some kind of meaning. I really have trouble relating to someone who pays $175 to attend anything. I am not sure if fan — short for fanatic — describes such a person adequately. How about dugout diehard, foul ball freak, rabid rosin bag radical or base line brat? They all work for me.

Following the 7-7 All-Star stalemate, sports reports from sea to shining sea included images of disgruntled $175 fans displaying their displeasure. Sporting scowls and waving their hands in the air with thumbs down, these baseball zealots stood in solidarity, whining because there was no “winner” in an All-Star game.

I wonder if they realize the game actually went two innings longer than regulation. Would they have been happier had the game been decided in nine innings? Surely they got more bang for their buck with the two extra stanzas. If the game had ended with the ninth inning, fans would have paid approximately $19.44 per inning. With the game going 11 innings, they wound up paying less than $16 per inning. It seems to me, tie or not, the fans got more than they bargained for.

Do fans attending the All-Star game really have an emotional attachment to either the National or American League? Do fans of the National League yell, “We’ve got spirit yes we do, we’ve got spirit how about you?” Do American League fans retort, “We’ve got more, we’ve got more….” Upon a player making a great play, does a fan leap to his feet and scream, “I voted for him, yeah baby, I voted for him.” When leaving the stadium, do the fans of the losing “team” mutter, “That’s okay, we’ll get ’em next year.”

The gathering of professional baseball’s elite at Milwaukee’s Miller Park on July 9 meant nothing — absolutely nothing. Unless you are a baseball buff of Jeopardy variety, you cannot recall the winner of last year’s All-Star game. If you can name the starting lineups of any All-Star game — including this year’s — you probably need to get a life, or at the very least a library card.

Money is not the bottom line in professional sport; it is the only line. I am not sure which is truer: that professional sport mirrors society or that culture is reflected in pro sports. Either way, the image projected by players and fans is materialism times ten. The players perform for exorbitant pay and the fans willing pay extravagantly — and that’s just for parking — for a competitive product. The reality is that professional sports have become nothing more than high-priced, crass, consumable entertainment — and all-star spectacles are the quintessential when it comes to crass.

In the grand scheme of life, not only are all-star games insignificant, but professional sports in general are, at best, trivial pursuits. Following the 1972 Super Bowl won by Dallas, a reporter asked Cowboy running back Duane Thomas how it felt to win the ultimate football game. Thomas deadpanned, “If it is such an ultimate game, how come they are going to play it again next year?” Now there is some perspective for you.
Boggs, whose column appears in Baptist Press each week, is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs