If you've never been to Milwaukee, you're not missing much. Though it sits on beautiful Lake Michigan, the city is a mess of ugly buildings and rusted-out steel mills. Streets are deserted. The people are plump. And the air quality? Think Bellingham, but worse; Tacoma with a stench twice as stinky. Yes, just about the only thing Milwaukee has going for it is beer, and even then, MGD is pee compared to a nice Fat Tire. These are just some of the reasons why I gave away my $175 tickets to this year's Major League Baseball All-Star Game and watched it on television, just like a record-low 10.3 million others.
It's not like we couch potatoes missed much. Baseball Commissioner (and former owner of the Milwaukee ballclub) Bud Selig called the game after 11 innings, with the score tied at 7. Brewer Bud claimed he had no choice—both teams had used all of their players, and neither manager wanted to risk injury by stretching anyone too far. Still, many of the fans understandably were outraged. Some, like the guy from West Seattle who took my seats, traveled thousands of miles for the lousy game. Others, like a buddy who drove up from Chicago, paid as much as $1,000 per ticket. Sure, these fans got to see 11 innings of entertainment from the best in the sport. But it was the first time in 41 years the "Midsummer Classic" ended without a victor.
Was anyone honestly surprised? Considering the current economic state of the sport, considering the flap over steroids, considering the impending work stoppage that could deny us baseball next season, this year's All-Star Bust was almost as predictable as the last Mike Tyson fight. In one corner, we've got owners crying foul, rightfully complaining that the current revenue-sharing structure stinks, wrongfully clamoring for a half-assed solution of a luxury tax on payrolls above $98 million. In the other, we've got a bunch of overgrown crybabies selfishly embracing the free market, even though the average salary has risen from $51,500 in 1976 (before free agency) to $2.38 million on opening day this year. Not even Zen master Phil Jackson could fix our national pastime.
Sooner or later, the owners and players will quit griping, make nice, and just play ball. Until then, of course, the only ones who lose are we, the fans. In the midst of "negotiations," contraction is a certainty, which means baseball zealots in Montreal or Minneapolis or Miami will find themselves without a team next year. With fewer teams, the league is forced to raise ticket prices, which would make it even more difficult for lower- and lower-middle-class families to take kids out to the ball game. Worst yet, here in Seattle, you pay $9 for ballpark sushi, yet you're supposed to believe your $98 million Mariners have a fighting chance against my $140 million Yankees at the American League pennant and a chance for the World Series. We know the script: Arthur Rhodes eats it, thuuuuuh Yankees win. The author might as well be Senior Selig himself.
Ah, yes—Senior Selig. The poor guy said he couldn't sleep all night following the worst disaster in All-Star history. But the debacle in Brewtown was just further proof that baseball doesn't deserve fans like you and me. The players want a strike? I've got one: How about we fans keep the $35 we'd spend on tickets, save the $20 we'd shell out for peanuts and Coke, and donate the money to our favorite Little League teams? I've done it already; I'm set to do it again. I only hope it's not too late.