Savor the Spectacle of the MLB All-Star Game

Will Leitch writes Will's World, a column appearing in each issue of Sporting News. ↵

↵A natural part of growing older is realizing how silly your childhood passions turned out to be. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vanilla Ice and Saved by the Bell, alas, are lame. My sister, living a perfectly happy adult life in San Francisco , wouldn’t admit, at 29, that she once had a New Kids On The Block bedspread, even if you waterboarded her. We enjoy simple pleasures when we are young because when we are young, we are stupid and have no taste. ↵

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↵But we can take growing up too far. Sometimes we segue so far into adulthood that we forget the purity of shiny colors, surreal landscapes, dogs and cats living together. We look behind the curtain rather than just absorbing with giddiness what’s in front of us. ↵

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↵When I was a child, my favorite event was the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. It was a kaleidoscope of crazy visions for a 10-year-old. Ozzie Smith batting against Roger Clemens? Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy in the same outfield? Cal Ripken shaking hands with Dwight Gooden before the game? Yes, please! The All-Star Game unites the gods in one location, at one time, in a way that’s breathtaking for a young fan. It was like when Daffy Duck and Donald Duck played a piano duet , or a comic book in which Batman and Spider-Man joined forces. It blew my mind. Still does. ↵

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↵Sure, in a theoretical sense, interleague play and player movement have diluted the novelty of the All-Star Game . But that’s just a theoretical thing you bring up as a data point for whatever agenda you have rather than an actual reason not to watch the All-Star Game. Sure, it doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just an exhibition game, the home-field advantage for the World Series thing is pointless. So what? It’s a game where you just watch the greatest baseball players in the world play for four hours. You know, that’s enough. ↵

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↵I say this because, for the first time, I’m attending the All-Star Game. It’s in St. Louis, my father is turning 60, and it’s pretty much the ideal gift. The game’s rampant substitutions will do a number on my scorebook, but I’m going to sit there wearing a Cardinals jersey and maybe a foam finger and a pinwheel hat, staring in awe. Baseball’s ↵All-Star Game is the only one that matters precisely because baseball is a sport that cannot be altered dramatically if the players don’t care, unlike basketball and football. Baseball is just baseball, and it’s a sport that focuses on the individual in a way perfect for the All-Star Game. Tim Lincecum against Derek Jeter? Albert Pujols vs. Roy Halladay? Yes, please! ↵

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↵As a thinking adult, there is much about the All-Star Game that annoys me. Baseball rarely is at its best when it’s trying to put on its fancy Sunday clothes . Inevitably, something embarrassing will happen, and we’ll have to go through this whole “What’s happening ↵to baseball?” business we go through every month or so. It happens. ↵

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↵Listen, I know everyone likes to beat up on baseball : It’s the old man’s game, Bud Selig looks bad in a suit, steroids, labor woes, blah blah blah, let’s all point and laugh. But c’mon, man: It’s the All-Star Game! Look at all the different uniforms! Everybody’s all in the same place! What more do you people want? If you can’t appreciate it, you need to get back in touch with your inner child. Give him a call . He’ll show you the baseball cards he has flapping in the spokes of his bicycle. ↵

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↵This story first appeared in the July 6 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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