In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

This is a weekly column from Leitch.

So I just found out last week that, barring unforeseen circumstances, I will be heading to the All-Star Game in St. Louis this year. I've never been to an All-Star Game before and, all told, I'd never really considered it a legitimate option. Tickets were going for upwards of $3,000 last year at Yankee Stadium, and I think that was for a table at the McDonald's across the street. This year, I have the opportunity to sit with my parents at Busch Stadium. I just hope my scorebook can handle the overstimulation.

I love baseball All-Star games, and I don't understand why not every baseball fan watches them. For crying out loud, it's the All-Star Game! Sure, I guess nothing is at stake, but, jeez, it's baseball: There's rarely anything at stake until September. That doesn't mean the notion of Zach Greinke throwing to Joe Mauer while Albert Pujols bats and Chase Utley leads off first isn't awesome ... what baseball fan wouldn't want to watch that? I don't think I've missed an All-Star Game in years: I even stayed up for the weird tie game. And I didn't think it was The End Of Baseball As We Know It. Which is good, because it wasn't.

I can't wait to go to the game — it will be a relief to watch the Home Run Derby the day before without having to hear Berman — but I think it's going to be a rude reminder that All-Star Weekend is when baseball likes to put on its best public face to the world. And even though it's now the most profitable professional sport in the country and is being watched by more people on earth than any other time in human history, baseball is rarely at its best when it's trying to put on its fancy Sunday clothes. Inevitably, Bud Selig's going to say something he shouldn't, 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. I'm hoping that actually being there will keep me farther away from that, rather than closer.

But holy shit! I'm going to an All-Star Game! Finally, an excuse to wear my Dallas Braden jersey. At least there's no longer a big huge hole in the ground next door. Let's just hope the weather cooperates and no one is run over by a garbage can.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Henry Abbott. Remember way back when, in the days when the "Mainstream Sporting Press" and "blogs" were somehow different animals, on theoretical opposite sides of some imaginary divide? We used to have quite a time around here, back in dem days, back before Jay Mariotti and Murray Chass had blogs, back before Josh Elliott was giving Daulerio shoutouts on "SportsCenter," back before I was interviewing a naked Brandon Jacobs. Everything's all fuzzy now, and though I'd argue that it was pretty much always like this, certainly, public perception has morphed somewhat. (Finally.) Back then, people used to always ask me what a successful merging of "mainstream" and "blog" sensibilities would look like, in a perfect world. I'd argue it's exactly what Henry Abbott — who predicted back in October 2005 that "Deadspin" would be a bigger name than "Quite Frankly," the fool — has pulled off with the True Hoop Blog Network over at ESPN. In addition to the "established" folk like John Hollinger, Chad Ford and Chris Sheridan, liberally sprinkled in are the purveyors of outstanding team sites like Cavs: The Blog, Orlando Magic Daily and Forum Blue And Gold. It is not enough for a sports site to give a dispassionate rundown of What Went Wrong in the Cavs series; they need to show how it feels for a fan, and TrueHoop accomplishes this beautifully. I've never enjoyed an NBA Playoffs more than I've enjoyed this one, and TrueHoop is a major, major reason for that. (They even have their bloggers on ESPN Radio shows, and most of them are pretty good!) This is how it works. Take notes, people.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Kobe Bryant. Now that I'm the freaking NBA expert all of a sudden, I can't help but be a little depressed by how the Finals played out. I loved Tom Scocca's Slate breakdown of how Beating Kobe is a grand rite of passage in the NBA — and you should really read that guy's stuff on The Awl while you're at it — but the piece had one major blind spot: What if the Magic ended up playing the Lakers in the Finals? Oops. Whatever your thoughts on Dwight Howard — and I love him, love him, love him — it's not exactly a personal breakthrough for him to beat Kobe Bryant, if that were to happen. If the Magic win, it won't be because Dwight Howard personally bested Kobe Bryant, in the same way the Magic's win over the Cavs wasn't about Dwight Howard personally besting LeBron James. (By the way, question for fans: Why do we really care if LeBron James left without talking to the media? Oh, I'm sorry, Mitch Lawrence didn't get to stick his tape recorder next to a bunch of microphones, and now he's ANGRY. LeBron's pissed off he lost and didn't want to say something he regretted. Had he ended up saying something, we'd all be destroying him for that. When you lose when everyone expected you to win, everyone finds a reason to make you look like an ass. It happens. It doesn't make LeBron less of a "man" for not sitting on a podium and grunting quick bland answers through dark sunglasses for 10 minutes. Anyway.) If the Lakers win, Kobe has another title, whoopedy-doo, and if the Magic win, Kobe is denied one. The Finals is all about Kobe. Sonuvabitch did it to us again. Dammit.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Joe Buck. Of anything I've ever wrote, here or anyplace else, very little has brought me more grief than my dogged, biased, vaguely nonsensical defense of Joe Buck as a halfway decent announcer and not actually a horrible human being. I've even found him — I know! I know! — somewhat amusing from time to time. (I'm a Cardinals fan. Forgive me. I never had a chance.) This was something I've always suffered in silence, assuming I was the only one ... actually, kind of hoping I was the only one. But nope! Apparently there's a whole TV network that agrees with me. "Joe Buck Live" is a show I will absolutely love as long as every guest is Mike Shannon, or Todd Zeile.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Joseph Garner. According to Garner, a Purdue University Assistant Professor (here is a picture of him), it turns out that fish can feel pain. This is not making me feel better about all that sex with fish I've been having. The highlight of Slate writer Michael Agger's piece about this new "discovery?" The debate among commenters on the original story about the study. Two sides of a battle:

Pro-fish: "Every time I see an angler, I say a little prayer that he will get his fishing hook lodged in his body, and then perhaps he will give some thought to the barbaric 'sport' he is pursuing."

Anti-fish: "I'm a trout fisherman and I can tell you all with 100% accuracy that the trout I catch feel absolutely no pain after I've smacked them over the head with a cosh."

Also, we learn there is a PETA Web site that allows you to make your own "sea kitten." And by "sea kitten," they mean "fish." PETA people are fantastic sometimes.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Randy Johnson. Tomorrow night, Randy Johnson goes for his 300th win, and we will hear all about it, because we are all fearful of getting old and Randy Johnson is really old and That Means Something. (It's so exciting, you can expect Nationals Park to be at least one-third full.) I don't think I'm alone in finding Randy Johnson a singularly unlikable player, whether it was tanking for Seattle, pushing a cameraman in New York (on the way to his first press conference, no less!) or ignoring his love child stuck with unfortunate predicament of looking exactly like her biological father. But I'll always remember him for one moment: The time he exploded a bird with a pitch. When you consider the number of different cosmic lottery numbers that had to align at the exact right point for that to happen, not only to a pitcher but to Randy Johnson, it's simply staggering. They should put a picture of an exploding bird on his Hall of Fame plaque.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

David Letterman. I'm still laughing about Videogum's joke that someone should ask Snopes to investigate whether Jay Leno really was funny once. (I argue that he was not.) But I'm with New York's Sam Anderson: What does all this late-night chair-shuffling mean for David Letterman? He's the only late-night host I have any emotional stock in — I love Conan, but I've got history with Dave: I desperately want him to be my uncle — and I'm terrified that Conan's going to beat him. It's one thing to lose to Jay Leno: People are morons, you know, so at least you fought the good fight, Dave, even if you lost to the morons. But to lose to Conan, to go out the door (since Dave can't have more than five years left, can he?) a two-time loser ... am I ready for Dave to end that way? I'm not. I'm not at all.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Bernie Miklasz. Miklasz is the hardest-working sports columnist in America. While Mariotti pretends he's somehow blue-collar because he writes few columns a week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist (and Springsteen obsessive!) runs a STLToday forum, maintains a Twitter, hosts a radio show, writes a blog and still files regular columns. And he even breaks real news, regularly: The latest was the news that the Rams might be sold to non-St. Louis bidders, paving the way for a potential move of the franchise. I'm always wary of talking about the Rams, because I don't want to offend any of my fellow Cardinals fans who, when they're bored of watching old baseball highlights in October, occasionally deign to see what else is going on downtown. (See here for details.) But, while admittedly indifferent to the Rams, I'd like to see them stick around, lest downtown become even more abandoned, angering Matt Vasgersian even further. Though there'd be something perfect to see them turn into the Los Angeles Rams again, wouldn't there?

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Chris Mortensen. Today's favorite sports "celebrity" Twitter — and I cannot fathom, by the way, why anyone would ever follow an athlete's twitter. Hey, C.J. Wilson can type the same banalities into his phone that he gives reporters after the game! Thanks, C.J.! — is The Mort Report. I've always liked Mortensen; slowly moving him off the frontlines of "ESPN Countdown" and into the old "Inside the NFL" Gary Myers role, in favor of Mike Ditka and Keyshawn is a maneuver from which the show still hasn't recovered. And if you follow his Twitter, you'll know ... he's got a little Peter King in him! Actually, more than a little. Here are some Mortensen Twitter highlights from the last week:

****** I went to church. I finished plaster/painting pool. That's not shabby, is it? I will mow a little more grass now, too.
****** Grabbing lunch & watching Bama girls putting it on Arizona in softball world series.
****** Pesky fly about to lose its life.

Actually, I love the idea of Chris Mortensen announcing an insect murder mere seconds before it happens. Cold-blooded.

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

Todd Tichenor. I have a natural sympathy toward baseball umpires. They're underpaid, they're on the road all the time and they spend most of their time being screamed at. They're like baseball's Amway salesmen. (Or, for that matter, politicians.) So I couldn't help but grin at the impassioned defense of umpire Todd Tichenor at SportsJournalists.com, posted by a friend of his. My favorite is the "i'll gladly im you his cell phone number, his personal address where his wife and two young boys are, and you by God give him the riot act" section, which is a new and fun way of dealing with anonymous online hatred: Encourage those people to scream at your friend in person! It's like the opposite of how that usually works. Typically, people will say things like, "you wouldn't have the balls to say that to my face!" The (anonymous) poster at SportsJournalists.com has a grand new twist: "You wouldn't have the balls to say that to HIS face! If you want his number, here it is, I DARE YOU!" Anyone upset with the Hurdy Gurly Man posts ... I bet you don't have the balls to say that to Daulerio's FACE! He lives just down the street from me! I'll give you his address ... WE'LL SEE JUST HOW MAD YOU ARE!!!

In Praise Of The Baseball All-Star Game

David Wolman. The Wired reporter just came back from the Digital Money Forum, and guess what? We're going to get rid of cash! That's right, thanks to the cellphone, Wired suggests that we're not too many years away from a planet in which cash is abolished. "Imagine someday paying for a beer with frequent flier miles," the story says, and hey, why stop there: I'd like to pay for a beer while in my car, using a gas card! Can we do that? Wolman points out one potential problem with a cellphone-based economy: It would be extremely difficult to give money to the homeless. Though the idea of a homeless man stopping you while you're smoking a cigarette to ask for a brief swipe of your Diners Club card is a delicious one. Who loves ya, baby?