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THE STATE OF THE GAME
A Road Map for Baseball's Future
By Kevin Donovan
I must confess. I feel a little bit emptier each spring when the baseball season arrives. There was a time when the start of the season was a powerful American metaphor for rebirth, hope, and excitement, all of it embedded within a shared passion for the sport. Baseball was a game that we were once proud to call our national pastime. But over the years a stream of minor assaults has turned into a flood, chipping away at the game and eroding our devotion to our teams, the players, and the concept of baseball as an institution.
Each year what we now look forward to is the owners' single-minded focus on squeezing every dollar out of their patrons as the players focus on squeezing every dollar out of the owners. Caught in the middle are the fans who have seen good seats eliminated in favor of luxury boxes; game telecasts switched to cable or pay-per-view; and Sunday doubleheaders sacrificed so that late night games can accommodate several extra rounds of revenue-generating commercials.
Our pastime is a business and we are powerless. We sit in our thirty-dollar seats at our taxpayer-funded stadium, sipping four-dollar sodas and munching on five-dollar hot dogs, all the while wondering if our car will get broken into as it sits in a ten-dollar parking space. In the meantime, the game continues to decline as players with stratospheric salaries, drug-enhanced bodies, and generally surly attitudes obliterate any possibility that our children could or should identify with them as heroes.
This is the sad state baseball finds itself in these days, but the years ahead promise to be even more disturbing. The last three decades have clearly demonstrated that baseball is in a long, slow, death spiral. Strikes and lockouts are now expected every few years, and when they do occur, the fabric of the game is torn apart by the greed of players and owners, then stitched back together with the expectation that it'll be just like new. While many fans do return after a work stoppage, often sacrificing their dignity in the name of love and loyalty, a good many others faced with such a take-it-or-leave-it choice have simply divorced themselves from the game.
But there should be a third option.
Yes, it is time for an intervention, time for our love of the game to give us the strength and resolve to save baseball before it plunges any further into the abyss. A twelve-step program would normally be called for, but in keeping with the symmetry and tradition of the game, I present the following nine-step program to save Major League Baseball:
To read the rest of this story, click here to order a copy of the Summer 2003 issue.
KEVIN DONOVAN lives in Atlanta, where he is currently
serving time in the corporate world. He is a twenty-year veteran of the airline
industry, an experience that inspired his recently completed novel, Airline.
A native of New York, he graduated in 1983 from Bucknell University.
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