Thursday, April 8, 2004

18. Money is ruining baseball

It is nearly ten years now since major league baseball players decided that their million dollar salaries weren't enough and went on strike (1994 average salary was $1.18 million). And still ten years later, though narrowly avoiding another work stoppage, things have not gotten any better for the fans. There is still no accountability, no drug testing to speak of, and, worst of all- baseball is still without a salary cap. ESPN recently put the Yankees on trial for ruining baseball, of this, let there be no doubt.

Baseball is truly becoming America's game, but only in its worst sense. As the wealthy control corporate and political America, they also control America's pastime. It no longer matters what is fair or right, only what is profitable. The distribution of wealth is as it is in society. The poor can make it to the top, but they have to be perfect, as well as the beneficiary of a couple of breaks along the way. It is akin to giving one construction company a million dollars, another fifty thousand- and then holding a contest to see which company builds a nicer house.

To be a fan of the Yankees is to support all that is wrong with society, for they are proof that money can buy just about anything. It also exemplifies to what extent people will sacrifice fairness and principle to be a part of a perceived winner. The payroll for the New York Yankees this season is $184 million, the Cleveland Indians, $34 million. The Boston Red Sox, with the second highest payroll, is nearly $60 million behind that of the Yankees. I wonder what fun it is to be a Yankees fan, for it is like someone bragging about a new car after he or she has won the lottery. Congratulations, but we are not impressed.

Moreover, the fans are being oppressed by the game's greed, as they are brainwashed into supporting a game that no longer cares what its customers want. The fans should be so lucky that Major League Baseball and its players would grace us with their presence. Two years ago when the all-star game ended in a tie after eleven innings, primarily because pitchers have become unwilling to risk injury in the game, Lance Berkman was quoted as saying, "We played eleven innings, what else do the fans want?" Sorry, Lance, we were under the impression that baseball games usually end up with a winner and a loser. As for what we want, well, I want you to spend six months in a foundry at $8.00 an hour, and then to see how fast you run out onto the field to play extra innings.

The arrogance of the players is further exhibited in their demand for special treatment. The union, which has to be one of the most powerful in the world, feels that its players should not be held accountable to the standards of society. They believe that drug testing is an invasion of their privacy and feel no shame in the obvious cheating that occurs from it. At this point, it may take no less than an act of congress to hold them accountable.

Last season when a fan ran onto the field and assaulted a coach, baseball screamed for more security- a request that was quite understandable. What is not understandable is that they wanted more severe punishments for fans that assault players and coaches. When did they become royalty? How egotistical of baseball to think that an assault on one of their players is somehow a greater offense than an assault committed against any other human being.

The problem is that the fans, which are still the customers, have the power, but make little use of it. If the fans want a salary cap, if they want drug testing- it's simple, stop going to games, stop watching games, stop supporting advertisers and stop buying major league apparel. Attendance did drop almost 20 percent in 1995, but that is not enough. How foolish that everyone, except those fans in the major markets, complains but does little about it.

How did Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. ensure that African-Americans could sit anywhere they pleased on the bus? What voice do the wealthy hear other than the sound of an economic strike?

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