Thursday, October 4, 2007

CHEW ON THIS, BASEBALL FANS

Hmmm, what can I use to illustrate my economic theory.

How about bread? Bread was once baked lovingly in the home with the finest ingredients available, but sometime after the turn of the 20th century, some savvy entrepreneurs found that it could be cheaply mass produced to take the burden off the housewife, appealing to our seemingly insatiable urge for expediency over common sense

So companies replaced the homemade, whole-grain breads of the 19th century with a nutrition-free, mass-produced substitute our grandparents came to know as white bread. It took 75 or so years to realize that the mass-produced product was removing most of the stuff, like fiber, that made bread mankind's staff of life. Check the figures on the rising tide of colon cancer.

Only now have people in the know come to realize that whole grains are essential in our diet, and son-of-a-gun if it doesn’t taste a whole lot better than that sorry Wonder Bread that held my tuna fish salad together in the Fifties and Sixties.

So what’s the point? What does bread have to do with sports?

We accepted the expedient concept of mass-produced bread. We are force-fed the concept of bottom line over common sense in professional baseball.

Yes, it all boils down to bread, man, in the sense of the world that our generation coined about the time Nixon was mining Hanoi Harbor. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and as long as the rich are in baseball’s major markets, all is well.

As the glowing reports of baseball’s increased attendance radiate throughout the industry, the once-proud Pittsburgh Pirates have endured their 15th straight losing season. Atlanta, once perceived as one of the big boys while dominating the NL East, can no longer afford Andruw Jones.

Even the considerable loyalty Torii Hunter has for the organization that nurtured his ascent didn’t stop him from rejecting three years and $45 million from the Minnesota Twins for a shot at even greater riches. Who can blame him? Did the Wonder Bread CEO consider anything but bucks?

Gluttony rules. Those of us who have lived for a while recognize this. Most of those bred on ESPN – surely one of the prime enablers in greed’s molding of sports – wouldn’t know any better, so paying exorbitant prices for entertainment is as conventional to them as consuming white bread was to us.

Bread often is examined as a barometer of economic times. Proportionally, the price of a baseball ticket has risen more than bread ever will. On the surface, consumers foolishly pay the price. Underlying research will show that corporations using tickets as write-offs are the ones footing the bill.

Naturally, most of the corporations are headquartered in large cities so the gap between the small markets and large markets is ever widening. Given the free market system that baseball enjoys, thus banishing Mr. and Mrs. Everyman and their two children from attending, the rich thrive, the poor get trashed and all that most people care about is if their team makes the playoffs.

Congratulations, your team made it. Common sense dictates that people with the most money in their hands will come home with the nicest Christmas presents so what are you barking about?

Way to go. Pat yourself on the back as you live vicariously through that logo plastered on your sweatshirt, cap and car bumper. I’ll be damned if I care. To the richest go the spoils. The only reason they play 162 games is 162 more reasons to turn you upside down and shake the coins from your pockets because we all know the rich guys are going to win.

New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago. Wow, big surprise. Is anybody taking any bets for next year when Jones, Hunter, et al jump on the large-market gravy train and make the situation even more lopsided, pitting grown men on the major market squads against the minor-league youngsters the less fortunate are reduced to using?

And to make matters worse, only the richest can afford the cream of the international imports. Even the amateur draft, where small-market clubs are reduced to drafting only players they could afford and are compelled to stay away from the clients of blood-sucking agents like Scott Boras. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better as the ability to compete slowly drains from all but a handful.

And now, enjoy your playoff party, but check out that sandwich bread. It’s likely to be a whole lot better than the junk that surrounds the $8 stadium hot dogs.

1 comment:

platypus said...

Bread and circus, the essentials of civilization have been with us long before baseball was invented. Rome's coliseum had its A-Rods and Schillings, its Giambis and Cansecos. The fault lies within us, in our human nature. The dust on Pluto's moon doesn't know that it lacks oxygen out there in Yankee Universe.
So, who to blame? Not the game for baseball is just the latest incantation of basic human greed. Not the players who are, in a sense, captives of their own incredible athletic talents. Not the media for it is your role to chronicle the play and give-and-take of the game.
For all its baser and better nature, it is the competition to fascinates us, draws us to the mercury vapor-lit stadiums like so many moths. During our lives we flit about that light, darting to the men's room or concession stand to address our physical urges. But it is our deeper psyche that brings us back into the seats arranged around the emerald grass to divine some pleasure from the hunt for victory over an opponent. To the degree that we find ourselves sharing this experience with our fellow humans is what defines our civilization; the common language of us human beings, be it spoken in balls and strikes or unspoken in the shared moments of emotion, such as the appreciation of the outfielder stretched out, sliding along the tops of the grass as gravity and physics places that horsehide orb neatly in the pocket of a leather glove.