Mark McGwire’s admission last week that he used steroids during his major league baseball career is spurring me to reprise my 2008 essay on the deeply flawed character of America’s “national past time.”
Because the words of this blog pack a wallop, I want to dispel any rumors â€“ before they even start â€“ that the rants and raves contained herein are written under the influence of steroids or human growth hormones. These rants and raves are 100% organic, with the possible exception of the occasional diet soda or two.
I firmly believe baseball star pitcher Roger Clemens should not claim his fastball and strikeout total are purely organic. Nor are Barry Bondsâ€™ 762 home runs. A number of other major leaguers should not make the claim, either. The national pastime is busted and broken, just like the American empire. Bloggers like me will need to keep clean to clearly observe and report on the unraveling.
BASEBALL’S MAJOR LEAGUE PROBLEM
A day comes for most of us when we realize our parents are not the perfect beings we were led to believe growing up. As we mature, we begin to see them for what they are, including their character blemishes.
Many of us continue the maturation process with the realization that â€œAmerica the Beautifulâ€ is not so beautiful. Itâ€™s the day when one realizes that the federal government is of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations. Itâ€™s when you realize your government is guilty of illegal actions including torture, secret prisons, human rights abuses, and domestic spying, while vast portions of the citizenry donâ€™t object. Itâ€™s the day when you realize the U.S. President [George W. Bush] Â is a blatant liar and himself guilty of war crimes.
Now comes the additional realization that Americaâ€™s â€œnational pastimeâ€ â€“ major league baseball â€“ is truly a metaphor for the nation. Evidence has steadily unfolded revealing a game full of cheats and liars and money-grubbers, while vast portions of the citizenry donâ€™t object. The stadiums will be full this summer despite the gameâ€™s soiled reputation and the steroid-use scandal engulfing a number of its star players. Many Americans seem comfortable with a stench-filled presidency; why not its national pastime as well?
The corporate press ran stories this past week that major league pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in Florida and Arizona. It is the 2008 start for the much-too-long baseball season. Adult fans and kids are flocking to spring training sites seeking autographs, everyone acting like nothing is wrong with the game, or nothing is wrong with this country (we donâ€™t really have troops dying every day, do we?).
For the romantics who want to continue adulating the game of baseball, the truth about the gameâ€™s current stature is a high hard one, inside, chest-high, and close to the heart.
A METAPHOR FOR THE NATION
There was a time I could talk baseball with the best of them, and still can to some extent. I grew up playing baseball. I know the game, its nuances, and its history. At one time, I was a long-time, loyal Detroit Tigers fan. Some day my obituary will report my 1999 fantasy league championship in the Lansingâ€™s â€œHot Shots Baseball League,â€ bragging rights that even the inventor of Rotisserie baseball cannot claim.
Still, I will admit my naivetÃ© in the final years of my relationship to major league baseball. When ballplayers recently started popping large quantities of home runs out of the ballparks â€“ including once-peep-squeak shortstops and second basemen â€“ I was convinced the baseballs were juiced. I didnâ€™t think for a second that the ballplayers were juiced.
In the end, major league baseball became a freak show led by Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, all feeding the casual fanâ€™s wish for spectacular offense in a game tagged as â€œboring.â€ I, for one, canâ€™t and wonâ€™t pretend the game â€“ like its nation â€“ maintains its past integrity, real or imagined.
Now, as I continue walking further away from major league baseball, my current endeavors move me closer to another steroid-pumped institution, the U.S. military-industrial complex. Itâ€™s obvious from the chart below that the United States is artificially pumped with military spending, especially compared to any other nation, friend or foe. Our muscle-bound military economy now relies on a spectacular military offense to feed its continual hunger for profit through conflict, war, and killing.
Yes, there is something rotten in Mudville: the soul of a nation and its national pastime.
— Rico Thomas Rico