MINNEAPOLIS -- Every sport you watch and enjoy has a yearly event that seves as a national convention for everyone involved in the sport. All those at the center and around the periphery, from executives to media to retired players to super fans, they filter in from around the country to wear khakis, have "product meetings" and drink too much at the hotel bar.
These aren't much different than corporate conventions you go to. I used to cover these in the financial advisory industry when I worked for Registered Rep. magazine, when a bunch of brokers would leave their families for a few days in Las Vegas, or Orlando, or ... well, usually one of those two places. Every industry needs a gathering of hobnobbery, a place to network, to grouse, to commiserate, to drink and, mostly, to sell, or talk about selling.
Sports are the same. You need a place where you can count on everybody who has anything to do with the sport to show up. In college sports, this is the Final Four. (And will probably soon be the College Football Playoff.) In the NFL, this happens at the Super Bowl. In the NBA, it's at the All-Star Game. You can always tell which event is the corporate gathering spot because it's the one where the commissioner gives his "state of the game" press conference. And this week: MLB headquarters are in Minnesota.
I love that the MLB All-Star Game moves around to somewhere different every year. The Super Bowl is (until recently, anyway) always in some hotspot destination: The Super Bowl has to be at a place that understands how massive it is and how lucky the city is to be hosting it. (It's why New York City will never host the Super Bowl again.) The NBA does that often too; they'll even put that thing in Las Vegas if you let them. But baseball: In baseball, everybody gets a turn, though it certainly helps if you've built a new stadium.
The last time baseball's All-Star Game was played in a stadium it had been to previously was in 2012, when Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City hosted the game for the first time since 1973. That's an essentially whole different stadium now, though. Generally speaking, unless your stadium is completely falling apart, you're going to get to host an All-Star Game. In the last 20 years, the game has been in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston, Cleveland and (infamously) Milwaukee. Las Vegas, those places are not. Next year it'll be in Cincinnati. Suffice it to say, you won't be seeing the Super Bowl in Cincinnati anytime soon.
This is the first time Minnesota has hosted a game since 1985, a way to welcome in Target Field, the second-newest stadium in the game. (Marlins Park will get its game soon, I'm sure.) Minneapolis, as it turns out, will be hosting the Super Bowl at its yet-unbuilt Vikings Stadium in 2018, but the All-Star Game isn't any sort of dry run for that. (Nothing is a dry run for that, save maybe some sort of urban siege.) The All-Star Game is its own, more charming animal, and it brings in a different kind of fan. It brings in the dreamers, the sentimental, the sort of fan who always wondered what it would be like, someday, to maybe go. The thing about the All-Star Game is that it eventually comes to them.
This is why the All-Star Game still matters, and sort of always will. Baseball fans are the mooniest fans -- I am gleefully a member here -- and the ones most likely to swoon over the idea that all its best players are in the same place at the same time. Nobody cares about the Pro Bowl. The NBA All-Star Game is more about partying than anything else. The MLB All-Star Game is about dorks wearing nothing but team paraphernalia and paying $35 to go to FanFest, which is basically just a big room full of baseball things. The Super Bowl -- the Olympics, the World Cup -- comes into town, takes everything over and leaves a massive crater in its wake. The All-Star Game is always just passing through.
Which is why Minnesota is such a perfect place for the All-Star Game. People are cheery, everyone's friendly, the stadium is within walking distance of the major hotels and the weather here is just dead solid perfect. (Seriously: Minnesota in the summer is basically the platonic ideal of weather.) Being here puts you in a good mood the way baseball puts you in a good mood.
You see people from everywhere -- I've seen a jersey or hat from every team save the Marlins so far, and I haven't even been here 24 hours -- and they all have that same dopey grin on their face. The All-Star Game is an opportunity for Major League Baseball to put its best foot forward, to give the prettiest public face for its game. Minnesota's baseball history is as deep as any city's in the country: The only real downside is that the Twins aren't any good right now. (But just wait on that one.)
The All-Star Game isn't in Minnesota every year. But spiritually, it sort of feels that way. It feels like it's in a Perpetual Minnesota. You should get here.
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