By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I've long contended that one of America's most heinous shortcomings is the underappreciation of the film Joe Versus The Volcano.
Since you're probably not privy, the film is about a guy played by Tom Hanks who only sheds his inhibitions and discovers himself after being diagnosed with a fatal condition known as a "brain cloud." (A pre-water-balloon-filled-with-rice-pudding-face Meg Ryan is in it, too.) It's an appropriately silly romantic comedy that, unlike most romantic comedies, acknowledges its own absurdity. Hell, even Ebert liked it.
The film came to mind this week because it's Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's annual time to be America's demented grandpa at his birthday party. Bud has to bathe and put on pants because it's All-Star week, and that's when the game showcases how delusionally perfect it is and how Selig has a cloudy brain of a different sort.
Unlike Joe Versus the Volcano, baseball and its fearless leader never acknowledge their own absurdity. Airhead Bud reminded us of that in spades the past few days, both in discussing the game at large and in participating its July showcase.
During his media tour, Ol' Bud told David Letterman without literally saying it that Alex Rodriguez and the other players involved in the Biogenesis scandal will be suspended (though likely not this season), much to the joy of the seals in the studio audience. "Performance enhancing drugs—whatever they are—affect the performance on the field, and that is not what this sport is about," Selig said and emphasized what a tough and thorough investigation was going on in order to save the re-deflowering of Mother Baseball.
Also this week Selig disputed the wacky notion that the Biogenesis thingamawhatchit has caused a cloud to hang over baseball. "About this cloud hanging over us, our attendance is terrific again this year."
So that's that. People are showing up, so there's no figurative cloud. A literal cloud, maybe. "As for a black cloud, the last nine years have been the greatest years in baseball attendance and I have hopes that this year, if the weather ever clears it up and it stops raining in a lot of places, I'm really very comfortable that we're going to do well into the 70s (of millions of fans). So, I'm sort of just amazed at that kind of attitude." Also a brain cloud, perhaps, engulfing the sanity of any fan that doesn't eat their own skin.
Butts in seats are not necessarily indicative of negative vibes from fans. They stopped showing up after the strike in 1995 because they felt betrayed that owners and players put their business before fan pleasure. Whatever anyone's position on players using PEDs is, one cannot deny that a player taking them is doing so to improve his game on the field, which in turn provides greater entertainment. (Which maybe comes secondary to getting a fatter paycheck, but still…)
Citing attendance in this case would be akin to Roger Goodell arguing that brain injuries are not an issue in the NFL because fans to show up to games. Fans don't want football players dying young from the effects of the game, and fans aren't encouraging PED use, but within the frame of a game, they don't care about that stuff unless they want to purposely take in an event they are not going to enjoy. Sports aren't Sharknado.
(Note: Bud Selig has called for a special commission to investigate the threat of sharkadoes to outdoor games.)
Ignore Selig's complacency in the spike in steroid use in the 1990s because—wait for it—it caused fans to start showing up again! "Chicks dig the long ball" and "Baseball been berry berry good to me" and Ol' Bud wallowed in the dirty money. But now the dirty cop is cracking down, and there is no cloud?
Add to all that what should be a really cool story of a kid who toiled in the minors with no spot for him on the big club finally getting his chance elsewhere and making beyond the most of it—Chris Davis—instead having every home run he hits questioned. "I have never taken them," said Davis. "I haven't felt the need to." Well, you seem like a nice enough fella. That should be enough to appease fans and media.
Then comes the Midsummer Classic, which just so happens to contain the worst rule in the history of organized sports. The All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series is unforgivable and has helped solidify Bud Selig's legacy as a massive bag of suck. Ol' Bud demanded this exhibition game mean something, gosh darn it. And Tuesday night the game that has actual effects on the outcome of a championship took its MVP award and made it a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mariano Rivera is the best closer ever. This is not debatable. I'm fortunate to have watched his mastery, and I'm sad that he's retiring at season's end.
That said, if he wasn't the major factor in the outcome of the All-Star Game—really not even in the top five—why is he the MVP? Oh, right, because it's a nice story.
Nice stories in meaningless games are great. A kid with cancer scoring a touchdown at Nebraska spring game made the room I was in very dusty all of a sudden.
But baseball's commish has told us this game that many guys opt out of playing, that many other veterans would rather not play in, and that managers around the league demand selected players not play in because they pitched a few days before, a game where a Miami Marlin could help determine the postseason of a St. Louis Cardinal, means something.
Bud Selig forfeits manufacturing good stories if he forces such an inane rule on the game. And I put the Rivera decision on Selig. American League manager Jim Leyland was in a tough spot, having to both try to win the now-important game and acquiescing to pressure of the desired narrative of Rivera appearing in the game in New York of all places as part of his farewell tour. Both worked out for Leyland, but he also managed to let us know there would have been some repercussions had he went about it all differently.
"The commissioner and the others can't get on me. We put on a damn good show, didn't we?"
So Ol' Bud, despite requiring that a dog and pony show affect the game's biggest prize as well as blah blah contractual bonuses and stuff, likely relayed a message to Leyland that narrative was crucial Tuesday night. Rivera was the MVP, if "P" stands for public relations story.
But the game shouldn't need good PR. Not if there is no cloud hanging over it.
Ol' Bud swears he's retiring after the 2014 season. Unfortunately I don't expect him to suddenly improve himself in the face of the end as Joe in the film does between now and then or see the silliness he helps perpetuate in the game. Can we at least convince him to play the next All-Star Game in a volcano?
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America's youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim's inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don't follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago's Beverly To read more of Tim's blogs click here.
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