I'm trying to think of something that I care about less than the MLB All-Star Game.
I guess you have to understand where I'm coming from. I'm not a fan of a particular team or player, so I have no rooting interest here. I was once paid to play the game, so I've seen the other side of the curtain, where the great and powerful Baseball Oz is working the levers and taped bat handles. I've played with falling and rising stars, noble and humble heroes, and colossally talented douche bags. Hell, I was even named to two All-Star teams myself, in the minors.
All things considered, I have more respect for the minor league All-Star selection process than I do for the major league equivalent. At least in the minor league version, the people inside the game select the players who will participate. The big-league All-Star Game has come to represent that thing we players dislike most about the game: kissing the fans' ass.
Look, it's undeniable that the fans are the biggest part of the sport, but they don't sign a player's paycheck, no matter how much they might like to say they do when a player carries himself with anything less than complete, groveling thankfulness for all the fans' support. Because fans do so much to help a player get where he is. They were there at those Little League practices, pushing him along. They were there at those high school two-a-days, splashing water in his face. They were there at those college tryouts, reminding him to stay cool and collected. They were there in the minors, urging him not to let the grind beat him.
Yeah, right. When a player thanks the fans, he's really thanking them for not eating him alive based on something as arbitrary as how well he has produced in the last couple weeks. Thanks, fans, for objectifying me in a nice way, because we all know what you're capable of.
Yes, fans fuel the industry by which players are paid, but it's not like fans are ready or willing to stop consuming baseball long enough for unthankful players to go broke. Steroids scandals, corked bats, drug abuse, potheads, domestic assaulters, Bernie frickin' Maddoff … America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers, and baseball fans still come out to ballparks to watch the beloved stars of their grand addiction. Even when they're pissed at the ticket prices and seat licenses, cable fees and broadcast blackouts, people still come, Ray. People still come.
Players know it. The fans know it. Every once in a while, a player will say that he doesn't owe the fans a damn thing, other than his best effort. He's right. The minute he says that, though -- the minute he tears the curtain between what it really is and what fans would like to believe it is -- he's an ungrateful, arrogant heretic. The truth is that players wanted to become pros because they were driven by individual gain and personal goals, not to make sure the fans got what they deserved.
The idea that players should bow down, kiss babies and start Twitter campaigns for you to vote them into a game -- that ain't baseball. It's just marketing. Fans deserve the entertainment that the game provides at its best, and a game thats decided by fan vote, popularity and veteran honoraria is not real baseball. It's just another grand ceremony.
The fact that the All-Star Game decides the World Series home-field advantage is just an abomination. The game is spectacle-driven, built on the whimsy of the fans and played outside of the regular season and its rules. Why give it any effect on the championship? Why pay players bonuses for All-Star Game selections, when they might be excluded simply because they're not popular enough? And why, if you're going to let fans vote, would you give them a zillion votes apiece?
Please, let's take the game back to what it was always meant to be: highly skilled athletes battling to prove that they are the best, and through that battle, incredible entertainment for the fans to enjoy -- that is, to enjoy without meddling. We live in a world where athletes are demigods, and masses flock to praise and wear their names on overpriced knockoff jerseys. That doesn't mean that the masses should have a say in that player's destiny. Players should decide their own destinies, by doing what they're trained to do -- play baseball -- not by campaigning for approval.