Goodbye, 2006—you won't be missed. Not that you were the worst year ever, but you're probably somewhere in heaven hanging out with 1968, 1980, and a few of those other volatile and divisive years that people look back on with tired shrugs. So much arguing, so much bad blood, so much pointless and profane name-calling.
Yes, 2006 is just about gone, and I say good riddance to bad rubbish.
While 2007 has yet to rear his head, those of us who love baseball can already celebrate at least one fantastic victory: the election of Cal Ripken, Jr. to the Hall of Fame. That's something everybody can be happy about.
All right, it hasn't happened yet...but no one needs to invest in a crystal ball or call the Psychic Friends Network to know what's coming. On January 9th, the Hall of Fame voters will get to make a statement that's as obvious as it is profound: Cal Ripken—a certified good guy—will take his place among the likes of Ruth, Mays, and Aaron, while Mark McGwire—an equally certified bad guy—will have to wait at least another year.
What's interesting, though, is that the HOF discussion to this point has focused almost exclusively on McGwire. And how predictable for 2006, right? A hot-button topic, one imbued with good-versus-evil overtones, was brought to the table. And, in knee-jerk fashion, Americans divided themselves into two bitter camps: the Pros and the Cons, the Realists and the Idealists, the I'm-Smarters and the You're-An-Idiots.
Indeed, the media threw us a bone, and we all pounced upon it like well-trained dogs.
How nice it will be, then, when nobody debates Cal Ripken. He will be elected—and if everyone acts in a reasonable manner, he will be elected unanimously. But since we are talking about a few hundred voters, some wise guy will inevitably rebel and vote "no"...so let's just anticipate this and forgive him in advance. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and issue a statement right now so that the special day can be devoted exclusively to Cal:
Dear Mr. Voted-Against-Cal,
You silly little trickster—I could have sworn that Cal Ripken was going to get elected unanimously. But then you stood up and voiced your curious opinion. You sure surprised us! You're such a unique, free spirit. No conventional decisions or group-think for you. Have a wonderful 2007!
Now that that's out of the way, allow me to go on a Ripken-Lovin' rant. I'm not going to sing his praises in order to inform anybody of anything new, mind you—I'm going to shower him with kind superlatives simply because the year 2007 is almost here, and it sure does feel great to act in a positive and life-affirming manner:
Cal Ripken was, and still is, a man of wax. His ungodly skills and second-to-none attitude made him something of a baseball deity, one for whom we should all be thankful. His two Gold Gloves, pair of AL MVP's, and World Series ring all speak to his hardball acumen. His Iron Man streak saved a disgraced sport, and his ascension to the Hall of Fame will do the exact same thing during this unspeakable Era of Perf------- Enh------ Dr---s. His loyalty to the Orioles has associated him with Baltimore more so than the Lord for whom the town is named. Cal, you are a man, but I'm not ashamed to say "I love you."
Wow, that felt great. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and encourage everybody who reads this to pick somebody and just say nice things about them. Pitchers of the 80s, try saying something nice about Rickey Henderson. You're all happily married with college-aged kids now...there's no shame in admitting how he scared the pants off of you. Heck, it doesn't even have to be about baseball: Democrats, try saying something friendly about the President—you've regained Congress, so there's nothing to worry about...
Okay, I've probably alienated just about everyone who's made it this far. And I don't blame them; I'll probably look back on this piece and wish that I could invent a time machine to kick my own ass. So let me say this one last time, while I'm still somewhat punch-drunk: The only thing better than debating is having an excuse not to argue at all. So thanks, Cal, and happy new year to every last one of you bickering boneheads.