I’m sorry to say it appears as if the Major League Baseball All-Star Game has jumped the shark.
It’s with great sorrow that I write these words because of all the all-star games in professional sports, baseball’s stands as the most watchable of them all. Still, what we saw in the 88th playing of the summer spectacle made me shudder. The actual game itself was a good one. The manner in which it was broadcast, well, that’s another story.
With my vacation winding down, I had looked forward to settling in front of the TV last week to watch the game. Baseball is one of the joys of summer, and I’ve always liked watching the MLB All-Star Game, going back to when I was a kid. It seemed much more important to us kids back then in the 1970s. We wanted to see how the players representing the Mets and the Yankees stacked up against the rest of the best. It would be fodder for discussion the next day when we played ball at the school yard. To us kids, at least, it really mattered.
As the years went by, we got older and noticed the flaws in the NFL, NBA and NHL all-star games. Defense was little more than a rumor in those games. A lot of flash, but little substance.
What baseball has going for it is its all-star game is closer to the real thing than those in the other sports.
Unlike some, I thought it was a good idea when MLB started awarding the home-field advantage in the World Series to the club representing the league that won the All-Star Game. It was done that way from 2003-16. “This time it counts.” That was the message MLB conveyed back when it started selling that concept.
[Starting this year, the home-field edge goes to the team with the better record, the way it really should be].
In keeping with that line of thinking, the new mantra for MLB’s showcase of stars could be, “This time it doesn’t count.”
All anyone who didn’t get that message had to do was watch last week’s game. It was a good one, with the American League topping the National League, 2-1, on Robinson Cano’s 10th-inning home run.
Now, for my complaint. First, let me get this out: I typically enjoy Fox’s sports coverage. I think the network routinely does a great job. But Fox’s use of in-game interviews last week was over the top. We saw players being interviewed in the on-deck circle before stepping up to the plate. We saw Alex Rodriguez strolling across the infield dirt, interviewing infielders before the start of an inning. It was really all meaningless blather. “Come on, get on with it,” I thought. “I just want to watch a baseball game.”
Just when I started wondering what would be next, play-by-play announcer Joe Buck engaged in a conversation with a mic’d up Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals (talking about the Dallas Cowboys, of all things) — while Harper was playing rightfield!
It was then, with impeccable timing, when I received a text message from Tim Gannon, a reporter at the paper, saying, “It’s like the Pro Bowl now.”
Oh God, no! Has it come to that?
Several years ago I forced myself to watch an entire Pro Bowl, and it was painful. You see, hitting and tackling are integral to football, and you don’t see that in the Pro Bowl, which is a form of glorified touch football.
Maybe my irritation over these mindless interviews is a case of old fogyism creeping in. I don’t know. I’m sure some producer at Fox thought the interviews were a good idea.
In this case, “unprecedented access” led to unprecedented distraction and annoyance, at least as far as this game was concerned. Just because you have the ability to do something doesn’t mean that you should do it.
Bob Liepa is the sports editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected].