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Baseball 2012: My Season of Discontent

By Brian P. Dunleavy
Apr. 3, 2012

Those of us of a certain age remember well the Garrett Morris sketch on "Saturday Night Live" in which the comedic actor played the role of Chico Escuela, a veteran Latino baseball player famous for his signature line: "Beisbol been bery, bery [sic] good to me."

We also remember a time when the sport was indeed bery… er, very, very good to us, a time when the only drugs the players used hardly enhanced their on-field performance, when the Major League minimum (salary) wasn't equivalent to 10 times the gross national product of Costa Rica and when a family of four didn’t need a government bailout to attend a ballgame.

Don't get me wrong: The game has never been perfect. Racism persisted long after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and scandals involving players and owners have been as common as no-hitters—more so, in fact.

But as the 2012 season approaches, I can honestly say that it is the first in recent memory in which I don’t have definitive plans to attend a game. I'm not saying I won’t, but I can't say I will either.

Why?

Well, Ryan Braun may have been the straw that broke the camel's back—as opposed to the straw that stirs the drink (another dated baseball reference; Google it)—but I have been heading in this direction for some time. Baseball may not be the only sport where players cheat while being paid exorbitant salaries and where owners make killer profits while gauging everyday fans, but we hold the game to a higher standard. It is America's "pastime" after all; it's supposed to be better than that.

Of course, it's not—and what shocks me the most is that I appear to be the only one who sees it. Fans continue to turn out in droves. Last year, 79.5 million people attended Major League Baseball games. This marked the highest figure since 2008, the start of "The Great Recession." Four teams—the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers—set all-time attendance records in 2011. Baseball's best year ever, attendance-wise, was in 2007, long after the ongoing, though muted, steroid scandal broke.

So what's my problem? Why am I the only one who seems disappointed by the current state of the game?

Perhaps it's because I remember Chico Escuela. I remember a time when the game may have been flawed, but it was also fun. Or at least, "bery, bery good."

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About the author: Brian P. Dunleavy is a writer who lives in New York.

Email: bpdunleavy@yahoo.com



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