How best to describe this past week in Major League Baseball and the All-Star festivities that went down in KC?
I'm going to go with controversial. Though, not really.
After all, this is baseball and it's not like we're talking about players getting paid to injure other players or former athletes whose brains have gotten knocked around so much in their heads that they're sure to suffer debilitating effects for the rest of their lives.
Thanks, NFL, you've really raised the bar on chewing up and spitting out your participants like a wad of old Skoal. The East Germans pumping their women full of steroids seem saintly by comparison.
Sure, baseball had its own steroid problem once upon a time, but that was so five years ago.
Anyway, it ultimately grew the game, as has the unfettered bone-jarring violence of the National Football League. So, really, both of these things were never really problems...until they were problems.
If you follow me.
Anyway, it seems that the controversy that surrounded this year's contest between the best of the N.L. and A.L. started before anyone had even reached Kansas City—a town you'd think would be in Kansas but is actually in Missouri.
The question posed to Tony La Russa, the retired skipper of the reigning World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, who here was managing his last game in the Majors, was who should start on the mound for the National League.
That query, in hindsight, should have been asked of the American League starter, but we'll get to that.
Much pressure was put on Mr. La Russa to choose R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballer from the New York Mets, who you might call a "One Hit Wonder". No, not in the way Chumbawamba was a one hit wonder, or in the way Carly Rae Jepsen is sure to be, but in the way that Dickey gives up hits about as often as Skip Bayless makes a cognizant point. That is to say, he doesn't do it very often.
In the opposite corner was Matt Cain, who is having a terrific year with the San Francisco Giants. Yin to Tim Lincecum's yang, you might say.
Speaking of The Franchise, he has single-handedly ruined my fantasy teams this year. Yes, I'm stubborn and should have probably taken him out weeks ago, but I keep expecting him to turn around his season like Christopher Nolan turned around the Batman franchise.
Instead, though, Lincecum is just more Joel Schumacher (George Clooney and Chris O'Donnel dancing around in creepy rubber costumes, the future Governor of California delivering a torrent of horrible puns, and so forth...), metaphorically speaking.
Most observers in the run up to the game seemed to think that Dickey should get the nod and insinuated that the reason La Russa was hesitant to do so was because Dickey is a knuckleballer.
When La Russa went on record saying that Cain would be paired with battery mate Buster Posey to start the Midsummer Classic, we got articles like this one, a well written piece that contains my favorite piece of sports writing this week:
"I don't want to knock Cain, but La Russa's snub on the knuckle ball was nothing short of a knucklehead move."
Our next controversy came care of the Home Run Derby, a.k.a. that "contest" we all watch every year because there's nothing better on and, hey, it's baseball (sort of).
Also, some of us are in a betting pool at work in which we guess how many times Chris Berman will use the word "back" during ESPN's broadcast of the event. My guess this year? Three thousand two hundred seventy-four. I was a little bit over, though not by much.
So it seems that Kansas City fans were a bit perturbed that Robinson Cano didn't choose hometown hero Billy Butler to participate in the round tripper slugfest and weren't afraid in expressing that opinion via some very hearty booing as the man who won the contest last year stepped up to the plate. They cheered with equal relish every time Cano recorded an "out", which he did ten times without knocking a single ball out of the yard.
The fact that some baseball fans showed some genuine emotion and dared to have a little fun at the expense of a ball player who has probably heard far worse (he plays for the Yankees, after all) of course would not stand, either for ESPN's announcing crew (Terry Francona excluded) or for the commissioner himself, Bud Selig.
The day of the All-Star Game, otherwise known as the day after the Home Run Derby, which we all forget about five minutes after its over (Prince Fielder probably included), Selig said that he would look into changing the rules of the contest so that a hometown hitter would always be involved. This would lead to no player ever being booed in a baseball game ever again, because baseball players are very fragile and don't deserve such shoddy treatment for the minuscule amount of money they make.
Also, why didn't you come up with this idea earlier, Bud? Seems kind of obvious, now that I think about it. Oh, hey, how about we give the hometown crowd who paid hundreds of dollars to watch glorified batting practice something to actually cheer about without having to resort to the P.A. announcer hustling them like they're at a drag racing track?
"WHO'S READY FOR BASEBALL ACTION. ACTION. ACTION?"
None of that really mattered, though, as we soon had the All-Star Game to think about.
But first, the National Anthem and...oh my goodness, did that terrible young man have the lyrics written on his hand? That's a big deal for some reason! It's unpatriotic or something! I'm not sure why, but I'm just going to keep yelling until a coherent thought falls out of my mouth.
Oh good, the communist traitor offered an apology because that was totally necessary for some reason. Still not sure why. But, hey, at least now, the terrorists haven't won.
So then the game started. And was over a half inning later.
Not the best start ever by the reigning American League Cy Young and MVP award winner and especially not one he wanted to have on such a grand stage. No matter, though, as apparently Justin Verlander has Kate Upton to go home to now.
In the same way as the Luke Bryan fiasco, the fact that J.V. may be dating a twenty-year-old supermodel is news for some reason. Lord help me if I can figure out why. Okay, so I kind of have an idea why.
Looks at picture.
Regardless, I don't think you can blame Mr. Verlander's poor performance in the Midsummer Classic on the fact that he and the internet's favorite personality to search for might be an item, as some seem to want to do, pointing to Jessica Simpson distracting Tony Romo as another example of a "succubus" leading an athlete and his team to their doom.
Pardon my French, but that's "tres stupide".
I'm sure a professional athlete like Justin Verlander could compartmentalize his professional life and his personal life effectively enough that the two wouldn't come into conflict that much. Most athletes, I would say, are pretty good at this, that is, until they're not...
Paging Tiger Woods.
And, heck, we don't even know if these rumors are true. Then again, they sure are fun, as they lead to ridiculous polls and asinine tweets. And when your only option for sports viewing is the ESPYs, that is truly a gift.
Please, baseball gods, let the second half come quickly.
I can't take any more "controversy".