Saturday, January 12, 2008

Congress vs. Baseball

For those of you who live in a bubble or in Salt Lake City, Congress has decided to postpone their Jan. 16 hearing on Steroids & Performance Enhancing Drugs to Feb. 13 (Thank God it wasn't on Valentine's Day, then all the papers would run with the headline --- St. Valentine's Day Massacre). The most common thing I hear coming from people's mouths is: doesn't Congress have better things to do? There's a war. The economy sucks. Gas prices are high.
This is all true. I don't dispute the fact that we are in a time of crisis in this country where the ups and downs of society is decidedly on the down side, but indulge me while I speak of why Congress MUST intercede in this cheating that has enveloped this great sport of ours.

Walt Whitman once wrote,
I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.
The AMERICAN game. Baseball is more than the National Pastime, it is part of our enduring legacy as a country. It has created legends of men who can hit that little sphere with a success rate of merely 30%. Baseball, like life, is about failure. In life more often than not you are going to not succeed or get what you want. It is just the law of averages & baseball is as clear a metaphor of this than any other sport or game out there. As Paul Gallico said,"No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined."

Baseball is not just a game it's not just a sport, it is us. Baseball is an everyman game. Who hasn't gone out during the summer and hit the ball with their friends? Hell, I used to go the park down the street and pretend I was Steve Garvey or Ted Williams or Babe Ruth. Who hasn't gone outside and just played catch with their father? My father and I had an acrimonious relationship, at best, but when we threw that ball 60 feet 6 inches we were nothing but best friends. Best friends who carried on the tradition that has endured between fathers and sons since before the Civil War.

Now, people have a problem with Congress trying to stop cheaters? Baseball is a game who's records are most cherished, most hallowed. When someone says 714, what pops into your head? Babe Ruth. 755? Hank Aaron. 56 game hit streak? DiMaggio (which is in my spell check, proving my point). 61 homers in a season? Roger Maris. These are records that in the pantheon of baseball lore have taken on mythic status. Now, players, who get paid ungodly sums of money to play something you or I would undoubtedly do for nothing, have treated those records as if they were worthless.

Congress works as a conduit for the American people. They were elected by the people for the people to serve our interests. When we, as Americans, pay our hard earned money to go to a baseball game (something that costs upwards of $100 now) we want to be assured that the players are doing their best to keep the legacy of the game pure. The casual fan may not care who uses what in their bodies, but nor will that fan care about any of the traditions and sanctity of the game. They will not recognize the sheer beauty in a 6-4-3 double play. They won't see the excitement in a 1-0 game where both pitchers go the distance. Real fans, the ones who have stuck by baseball through Collusion, strikes & now steroids know that it has to stop.

Congress is doing the right thing in preserving this great game, pastime, enduring legacy of ours. If we can't count on the hierarchy of baseball to police it's own employees then we must trust that the people we elect to carry out what we, as mere bystanders, can not carry out, do what's best for the country. Those who mock Congress for taking this step think of the image that a young boy has of players like Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa as cheaters & realizing that the only way he can make it to the big leagues is if he cheats as well. I leave you with my favorite quote from one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams (which if baseball wasn't so beautiful why does this movie still make me cry?):

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.

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