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Baseball is a microcosm of American life

Joey Falco | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

As the 2004 Major League Baseball season rolls into full swing, skeptics everywhere are watching in horror as a batch of bigger, stronger and veinier players continue to overpower a playing field once dominated by hard-working, less generously-proportioned individuals. They look on in disdain as the legends of “The Arkansas Hummingbird,” “Wee Willie,” “The Kid,” “Little Looey” and “Little Joe” are being tarnished by the escapades of “Big Mac,” “The Big Unit,” “The Big Hurt” and “Barry Bonds.”These distrustful cynics simply refuse to accept the physical impossibilities involved in a person who performs otherwise-standard human activities, like wearing pants, hitting a 637-foot home run. Consequently, they have launched a no-holds-barred McCarthyist witch hunt against everyone from a San Francisco slugger to a New York City owner, alleging every form of cheating imaginable, from steroid use to overspending to conspiring with Al Qaeda. Now, thanks to their meddling, success in America’s greatest pastime has become taboo, and instead of doing whatever it takes to impress the thousands of devoted fans who still loyally attend each game, players must constantly tiptoe around the borderline between being “talented” and being “too good.”It truly is a depressing situation. Not because several record-breaking athletes may or may not choose to boost their performances by injecting the latest marvels of modern science into their bloodstreams. Not because certain teams have the broad fan support and lucrative television contracts that allow them to add nearly any player in baseball to their roster. On the contrary, my shaking finger of discontent points solely at the skeptical whiners, losers and victims of the high school bully who accuse these modern-day sultans of swat of cheating.This is, after all, America – the land of the free and the home of the lazy, where life, liberty and the pursuit of winning while doing as little work as possible have stood the test of time for centuries. Think Nagasaki, Hiroshima, the space race and the so-called “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” In each of these situations, the United States either chose to go the way of Barry Bonds and use the latest technology to overpower the opposition or the way of George Steinbrenner and simply outspend any competitors in order to assure victory.Similarly, domestic American life is based entirely on a corrupt system of laziness, cheating and spending the most money in order to guarantee success. Sure, Bonds may be able to implement certain wonders of modern medicine that were unavailable to the sluggers of the early parts of the century, but that is no reason why his hitting records should be eternally blemished with an asterisk indicating this.After all, personal computers didn’t exist 100 years ago, but journalists today can still earn the Pulitzer Prize without an asterisk indicating that they used Spell Check in Microsoft Word. Nuclear weapons didn’t exist during World War I, but America’s victory in World War II isn’t marked with an asterisk signifying the use of atom bombs as opposed to fighting like “real men.” SAT tutors and preparation courses that allow many individuals to “buy” higher scores didn’t exist 30 years ago, but a 1600 today is certainly not attached with an asterisk to distinguish it from a 1600 back then.In every facet of life, people today employ whatever technological means necessary in order to make their jobs easier, more productive and more indicative of the modern era. Spend five days penning a research paper by scratching charcoal cuneiform letters onto a piece of homemade papyrus, and not only will you have wasted five days, but your professor will most likely reward your allegiance to antiquity with a terrible grade. Why, then, should baseball players not be permitted to conform to modern practices and use any means necessary to perform at the highest possible level?Still, all moral and ethical debates aside, the unabashed use of technology isn’t the only definition of modern America that can apply to the current baseball situation. We, as a people, share an eternal love affair with all that is bigger and better and larger than life. Why get a wimpy small fry when you can Supersize it? Why purchase a scrawny, economy-sized sedan when you can get a Ford Expedition or a Hummer H2? Why settle for a puny dining hall burger when you can stuff your face with a pound-and-a-half Golden Domer at CJ’s?The same philosophy should no doubt then apply to the greatest of American pastimes. After all, I’ll take a 104 mph fastball over a 60 mph knuckleball any day. Likewise, a 550-foot home run that lands in McCovey Cove is a heck of a lot more exciting than a paltry Texas Leaguer that barely clears the infield.Consequently, baseball skeptics need to back off and allow players to put the balls back in Major League Baseball, because this is America, the land where, contrary to popular belief, size really does matter.

Joey Falco is a freshman political science and Spanish major. His column appears every other Wednesday. He can be contacted at jfalco@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily of The Observer.