Selig says 'Like it or else'
Busybodies decided in 1973 that baseball might have evolved badly, into a struggle in which pitchers could never hope to catch on to hitting. One idea led to another and the designated hitter began. One league resisted and one made the experiment permanent. That’s America -- choice and the freedom to disagree.
Now, Bud Selig now wants to try the designated hitter in National League ballparks for interleague play (USA Today, June 14, 2005), thus giving people what they don’t want. He is like the persistent parent pushing vegetables to a child, “Come on, try it.”
Worse, he confuses the theoretical with the attainable.
Frequently people try what they probably should know they don’t want. Experimentation begins many addictions.
Sometimes people even try what they cannot believe keeps failing, theocracy for example. U.S. voters, having observed that we had a democracy and Iraq didn’t, swung hard to the party of the religious fundamentalists.
Sometimes people even refuse to stay with what obviously works. The U.S. House of Representatives, having realized the First Amendment protects free speech, voted to amend the Constitution to prohibit burning the nation’s flag.
Of course, the First Amendment requires reading, so maybe a television age doesn’t know the difference.
Meanwhile, a major department store sells bath towels in the design of the flag, seemingly without incident. Thus, burning the flag stirs Congress, but drying one’s rear end on the flag does not. Self-righteous know-it-alls seem willing to tolerate desecration of the flag from people who don’t criticize, just as Selig is willing to tolerate fans who go to the ballpark and watch what they’re told.
Selig is tinkering with the part of the universe that works. Part of baseball’s appeal is the unpredictable playout of simple and objective truths. Maybe the right theocracy would work or theoretically we could condemn repugnant speech without jeopardizing the marketplace of ideas, but a pitcher batting .071 is a pitcher batting .071.
People who follow baseball know the differences between American League and National League baseball. In exchange for not watching a competent pitcher look like a fool with a bat, American League fans tolerate station-to-station baseball. National League fans prefer an occasional hit-and-run, bunt -- or opportunity to see the other team’s pitcher look like a fool.
Democracy takes the entirely illogical step of subordinating ultimate truth to majority vote, but baseball is different. Baseball is a more refined competition between values and styles. The truth lies in the fan, not the game, and Selig wants to force-feed fans what they have been trying to avoid.
No one needs the baseball commissioner for help picking a style of play. Fans have seen the television. They understand the other league’s style of play.
The designated hitter changes the game, but fans knew what they were in for before they reached the ballpark. The fans have choices.
Football and baseball represent choices from sometime early in August until the end of October. Maybe Selig would like to surprise World Series fans with a game between the New England Patriots and the Saint Louis Rams.
Baseball provides a haven where people can discuss what they like without denying the truth of the other person’s position. Maybe Willie Mays is a better all-time outfielder than Barry Bonds because of better defense and speed, but Bonds has hit more home runs, and no one can argue otherwise. Mays is better for one fan, Bonds for the other, just as one league is better for some fans but not all.
Maybe Selig is merely marketing, figuring even criticism is attention.
After all, criticism is the reason for a democracy. No one needs the protection of the Constitution to say what a genius the president is or how nobel the American cause in Iraq might be. Government goons will not shut down a press that praises our policy makers. The First Amendment is precisely for the protection of criticism, including flag burning.
If flag burning becomes illegal, protesters can always set fire to copies of the Constitution.
Jeff Cox, would-be baseball commissioner, June 27, 2005
Posted by Jeff Cox, would-be commissioner
at 8:01 AM CDT