Tuesday, July 12, 2011

All-Star Games No Longer Cool

Growing up, baseball's All-Star Game was always a special event. You got to see the top players in the sport, and even the pre-game ceremonies were enjoyable, with nostalgia all over, and a chance to see some of the all-time greats.

Over time, however, the game lost its luster. Participation in the game is no longer a big deal. Now, it's a contractual bonus, whether a guy plays in the game or not. And many players find a way out of the game, meaning you end up with a bunch of guys originally deemed as undeserving but suddenly good enough to be called All-Stars.

To make matters worse, when we were growing up, it was a pretty special thing to see so many great players under one roof. There was, believe it or not, a day and time where you couldn't turn on the television and see any baseball game you wanted to watch. We couldn't just watch our favorite team every night. Now, you can watch any game you want. You get to see all the great players.

What's the point of an All-Star Game?

If the players don't want to play in the game, why would anyone want to watch? If you can watch great players play on a daily basis, what's the big deal about watching them play at half-speed in an exhibition game?

(Especially when you can see plenty of half-speed exhibition games, since preseason games in all sports are televised and treated like they're a big deal.)

None of it makes as much sense as it did years prior.

None of it really matters anymore.

This isn't just about baseball, either. Look at the NBA and NHL All-Star Games, and look at the NFL Pro Bowl. None of them are as cool as they once were, to the point where the NFL doesn't even allow players participating in the Super Bowl to be in the Pro Bowl ... because the Pro Bowl happens before the Super Bowl.

The NBA All-Star Game and NHL All-Star Game could both go away tomorrow, and most sports fans wouldn't bat an eye. They are a cool experience for people who hold tickets to the event, but that's only 18,000 people or so. They can be fun for each league's corporate sponsors, because it's a chance to rub elbows with the greats.

Outside of that, they're practically useless. They're not on network television, because not even the enthusiastic television partners of the NBA and NHL have a real use for the All-Star Game. Despite plenty of promotion within coverage of the leagues, no one really watches, and no one really cares about the result.

Unless their favorite team's best player gets hurt in a stupid exhibition. That happens, and we'd never hear the end of it.

I'm all for the players getting together and having fun. But it's obvious to me that many of them don't even care about that. They'd rather stay home and rest during the All-Star Break.

It makes me wonder if we can ever make the event relevant for a majority of fans again. I don't know that it's possible. If it is to ever happen, it involves making it a big deal for the players. Perhaps elongating the season by a few days to increase their days off will decrease the number of players who take themselves out of the game when they're generally healthy.

(Guys like Ryan Braun are an exception this year. Not on the DL, but missed the last six games before the break and was obviously injured.)

But will that keep guys from taking three days to -- as CC Sabathia is -- go to the Bahamas or whatever? And is it fair to tell these guys they have to bust their asses for 162 games, and then they have to go shake hands and kiss babies at the All-Star Game while others are taking three days to hang out in their hammocks?

The All-Star Game used to mean something. It doesn't anymore, and I think we as fans just have to be okay with that. Judging by the ratings, most are. They just find something else to do, like most of the selected players are.

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