My friends can attest to the fact that I pretty much have no recollection of what I did yesterday, last week, or last month, let alone several years ago. My memory for the first 10 or so years of my life is pretty spotty, but many of the images that pop into my head from time to time are sports moments. There was the 1994 World Cup on home soil, Showtime, and the 49ers embarrassing the Chargers in the Super Bowl to name a few. These were all special experiences, but it is another that I hold dearest to my heart.
The memory that sticks out more than the others is when the then California Angels – and, of course, I wish that was still their name – blew a 12.5 game lead over the Seattle Mariners down the stretch in 1995. That collapse was the first time I felt real pain, the first time I actually felt sick to my stomach due to my heroes’ failures. But most importantly, the painful process made me a huge baseball fan.
As good as it is to reminisce about my team’s failures of the 90s, World Series title in 2002, and guaranteed postseason berth in Spring Training for the past few seasons, I find that I’ve come full circle. I’ve come to realize that baseball, the first sport I truly adored, is lower down on my priority list than college soccer, curling, and even cricket. It takes a lot for me to really turn against a sport or an organization like Major League Baseball, yet that is where I stand a little more than 10 years after being at the other end of the spectrum.
You’re probably asking yourself “Why the heck is this dude writing about baseball in January?” Good point. But with the problems the game has faced over the past decade, most recently the Mitchell Report and seeing Roger Clemens’ obnoxiously huge head tattooed over everything ESPN the last few weeks as he tries to lie his way back into public approval, this is as good a time as any. The reason baseball has become more of an annoyance than entertainment is the inescapable negative storylines that have plagued the sport for years. It’s at the point where the truly great stories, like the Colorado Rockies or Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, are surrounded by clouds of depression from the rest of the sport.
For the past few years, I’ve known that the Angels would be one of the most talented teams in the American League. And during those years I’ve also known that they would probably finish the year with the third or fourth highest payroll in the game. You would think I’d love to see my favorite team buy its way into the upper echelon, but that’s hardly the case. All I can do is feel – and I mean truly feel – for the fans of the Pirates, Reds, Royals, Devil Rays and countless other teams that never have a chance.
I’m tired of this luxury tax crap and without a true salary cap, parity will never return to the game, it’ll only get worse. Combine that with the never-ending search for the truth about steroids, the government’s determination to put Barry Bonds in the slammer and the domination of the Red Sox and Yankees, and you have a sport in a downward spiral with no end in sight. Why can’t Congress lower my tuition instead of inviting players to testify? Ridiculous. I’d rather go watch women’s basketball.