Old Habits Die

I didn’t plan to watch the All-Star Game this year.

But with Netflix on the fritz and a fidgety 5-year old next to me I flipped the TV over to cable.  I started looking at Honduras vs French Guiana but that looked initially like a Sunday game at my local park.  Over to FOX.  Carlos Martinez was on the mound; he’s worth watching.  Which led to the game staying on for the duration.  The game was well played and had some excitement to it.

So why would I not plan to watch it from the get-go?

The buzz isn’t the same as it was when I was a kid.  I remember quite clearly watching Dave Parker’s seed of a throw at the Kingdome to nail Brian Downing, Fred Lynn’s Grand Slam, and Fernando strike out 5 AL All-Stars in a row (and the subsequent comparisons to Carl Hubbell)..  But more than that, the ASG was an event – a big date in the middle of the summer.  It just isn’t anymore.  Frankly the HR Derby these past 2 years has been more exciting than the actual game.

Why that is could be due to several factors.

  • Baseball isn’t ‘America’s Past Time’ anymore.
  • Teams opt out of sending some of their best players now.  Injury replacements were always there, but pitchers who start on Sunday not going to the game is relatively new.
  • Interleague, but more than that,
  • I can watch every regular season game now on one device or another.

I really think the allure of the ASG centered around it not just being a chance to see the best players compete against each other.  It was a chance to see the other League’s players on the field versus your League’s best.  Prior to 1997 there were only 3 ways to do that – Spring Training (lol), the ASG, and the World Series.  If you lived in a town with 2 teams you could go to games for each League, but the rest of the country had to take advantage of one of those 3 opportunities.  The advent of Interleague meant you’d see the AL’s players on a rotating basis every year.  The current schedule ensures an AL team plays a NL team every night.

Then there’s local cable TV deals and MLB.TV.  I can watch any team at any time on my TV or mobile device.  I can even watch the local 9 on my phone via the Fox Sports One app (not that I really want to watch San Diego play without a COPIOUS amount of beer available).  I’m not seeing players in the ASG I haven’t seen already on TV, at the ball park, via a highlight package, etc, dozens of times.

Pandora is out of the box.  Time marches mercilessly forward.  The Baseball ASG was the one All-Star event that people would really watch – because even though it was an exhibition (and is again, thankfully), the mechanics of the game remained the same.  Guys competed to see which League was really better.  It wasn’t a glorified walk-through like the other major sports ASGs tend to be.  Now we know which league is better because we have interleague records to use as proof, and we can see guys in rival ‘leagues’ compete against each other any time.

I no longer mark my calendar and I don’t watch starting with the introduction of players.  When Baseball’s Mid-Summer Classic has to compete with a Gold Cup group stage game for my attention the shine is off the diamond.  It is, unfortunately, what it is.

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