I, like most of
SportCenter’s
audience, have been hearing
a lot about the upcoming player’s
strike
on August 30th. I’ve
been a baseball fan who has followed his
Orioles nearly since birth
but when I attempt to reflect on the upcoming event, I can’t help
but think “who cares?”

Really, who cares? Why should I care about the players? Why
should I care about the freakishly rich owners? Why should I care
about the sanctity of the “game”? It’s just a game, after all.
There’s a little bat, a ball or two, and some pieces of rubber
to run around on. I flip on the T.V. and there they are, playing
backyard ball on center stage, swinging the little stick and hitting
the little ball.

This little game that wants to be called America’s pasttime
has some major things wrong with it this time of year.
September begins the time of fan apathy. The hopes of early
summer are already gone for most of the league and, by relation, most
of the fans. I suppose the fans from New York may mourn the loss of
World Series but should the rest of us? We knew the
Yankees
would likely win it anyway – we knew it last year (beautiful loss, by the
way) and we know it will likely happen again and again in the years
to come. The playoffs in baseball are just a synonym for getting the
richest teams together to have a party of sorts. The difference
between the haves and have nots in baseball is the equivalent of a
homeless man peering into the window of a coffee shop. The rest
of the league stares at the glorious play of the few from the
sidelines.

But that may be the least of baseball’s problems. Football, a model
of modern sports, is back. There couldn’t be a more serious
competitor for average sports fan. Who will win the Super Bowl
this year? I don’t know. I really don’t. Everyone who thought
the Patriots would win it last year put your hands up.
(Those of you in Boston can put them down. We all know you didn’t really
believe it even after it happened.)
Talk about parity and talk about intrigue. Oh, and people get to
tackle each other, hard. Can it get any better?

Baseball, if you go through with the strike, just get it right this time
around (here’s a enlightening
suggestion
to start with). If you want to sacrifice the present for the future, do it.
Throw the baby out with the bath water. Wipe the slate clean and
begin anew. For heaven’s sake, look to other
sports in the US and implement a salary cap.
This would be the third strike in the last ten years.
By your own accounting your number of chances is up.
This time figure out something both sides can live with
before baseball fans figure out that they can live without you.
But get it right. Just get it right.

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Minor League Fun

Jul 14, 2002

While settling down in the stands to watch a baseball game on Saturday night, the
wife leaned over to me and said “this just seems more family oriented.”
The Bowie Baysox, the
Orioles double
A affiliate, were on the field and we were just beginning to take in the sights
and sounds of minor league baseball.

You know what? She’s right. Families of all types and sizes surrounded us.
There were kids enjoying a trip
around the merry-go-round just off of right field; other kids played catch
to both our left and right. The smell of hot dogs
was in the air, a good crowd watched from the stands, and the guy in front of
us was just itching to talk baseball with anyone who would listen. As I took all
of this in, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why doesn’t major league baseball
feel this way?”

It almost got me down. When I think of major league baseball lately, I think
of handing over my wallet to get in and all the labor
problems that are going on right now. It seems that all the success that
major league baseball has enjoyed has lead to one thing: a whole bunch of
rich, spoiled men fighting over how to split all the cash. A lot of the
arguments
between owners and players make it seem much more like a business
than the average fan wants to admit. We know it’s a business, we really
do. But when there are two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the tying
run on second, we want to think that the batter wants to win in his heart and that
money is far from his mind. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure.

In any case, for $8 a piece, the wife and I saw one hell of a ballgame. Good to
average play all the way around, ending with a four run comeback in the bottom
of the ninth to win the game. Top it off with a fireworks display,
and we have a winner. I can see me coming back this season. I can see the wife
and I bringing our children here in the future. We won’t have to break the
bank either. A family of four could get in for $16, provided the kids are
under five (in which case, they would be free). Maybe we’ll even put them
on the merry-go-round. Try doing that at
Camden Yards.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a blast watching the Orioles play this year.
But while players and owners alike fight over the piles of scraps, it was nice
to ignore it all. For one night, at least, it seemed a bit more pure, a bit more
enjoyable, and, yes, a bit more family oriented.

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Hard Knocks Football

Jul 11, 2002

It seems that HBO is going to run another
“Hard Knocks” football special this year.
Last year, this show followed my home-team and super bowl champion
Ravens through
training camp and the preseason. This year they are going to switch gears and
head to Texas to profile my second favorite team, the
Dallas Cowboys.

First, a bit on the show itself. By and large, I really enjoyed it last season.
Obviously, as a big fan of the Ravens, I thought that the opportunity to see what
happens more or less behind closed doors was quite interesting. The
show certainly had its slow points but it also had a couple of memorable moments.
(like “The Goose” locking the tight ends, including Shannon Sharpe, in a
trailer or a bit of rookie hazing that ended with a poor gentleman taking
an ice bath). The focus on rookies that were on the fringe of getting cut and
some unfortunate injuries suffered by the team added just that bit of drama that
was needed.

The coverage now heads to Dallas. For those who don’t know, Dallas has been
my favorite football team for as long as I can remember. I know what many of
you are thinking: “Oh no, a Dallas fan. How could you?” All I can say is
that I got it honest. I grew up in a house of Cowboy fans, namely my two
brothers. The Cowboys were good in the seventies, my brothers would cheer
away every Sunday, I was young and impressionable, and it stuck. When they
got good again in the early nineties, my love for the sport was just hitting
stride. It all clicked, particularly since poor old Baltimore didn’t have a
team of its own. When it gained one, just a few scant years ago, Dallas had to
slip down a notch to make room for the hometown boys.

My only problem with the show is that this season just can’t be as good as the last.
The records of the two teams in the season following the show could end up
being quite similar. Dallas, although lacking at the quarterback position, is
looking quite solid in both defense and at the running back position. Their
wide recievers are reasonably solid. They could (I repeat could) compete for a
playoff spot, much like my Ravens did last year. This year Dallas seems to
be on its way up. The Ravens, little did we know, were on their way down.
However, this might not mean much to the show for two
reasons. One, the show takes place in the preseason. At this point, it is
all about the hype. The Ravens had a super bowl trophy. The Cowboys
have quite a large following. The ratings may end up being better but the content
probably won’t. Two, the Cowboys just don’t have the cast of characters that made
the show so much fun with the Ravens. Let’s replace Brian Billick with Dave Campo. Let’s
replace Tony Sirigusa with La’Roi Glover. Replace Shannon Sharpe with … well, you can’t
really replace that mouth with anyone outside of Mick Jagger. Can you? It just
won’t have the same ring to it. There is no replacing the personalities that
made up the Ravens last year.

In any case, I’ll be watching and hoping for the best. I’m voting for the
Cowboys this year, if only to stem the tide of tears over what has become a
rebuilding year for the Ravens.

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