SPORTS FOCUS: Parents, watch it on TV


If you want to know one really good reason to not bring your kids to professional sports events, watch the replay of Sunday’s all-out bench-clearing brawl between the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners.

Have I watched it? No. I didn’t have to. I already know the essence of what transpired, like it has on numerous other occasions. In an interview years ago, Cal Ripken Jr. said his consecutive games played streak almost ended because of a brouhaha against the, eh, hum, Mariners back in, I believe, 1996. Luckily for the modern-day Iron Man, Ripken didn’t get hurt and went on to play in every game until surpassing Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 straight games in 2001 (and beyond).

These Major League base-brawls are, in some instances, no-holds barred. Emotions reach boiling points, and, unlike football, there’s no protection from a swift uppercut or a virtual stampede or dogpile. While all this is going on, moms and dads watch on in dismay as their kids look on at their childhood heroes acting like immature grownups trying to hurt each other while playing a game.

OK, I know. But spare me the “you-don’t-understand” speech on the unwritten rules and the turnabout-is-fair-play logic. If you ask me, the suits that govern the sport expect a dugout-clearing cleanse now and then to add an element of drama to an otherwise uneventful sport in which the only close attention comes when a player hits a game-ending home run or gets hit by a 95-mile-per-hour fastball in the nogging and precipitates a mass confrontation at the pitcher’s mound and players spit chewing tobacco at each other and, you know, the rest is archived on YouTube in perpetuity.

The brushback pitch has been a mainstay in baseball for generations. Bob Gibson was perhaps the most famous for it, and, when he brushed back hitters, they, like E.F. Hutton commercials of yore, listened.

All things considered, however, I prefer a no-nonsense clean game where pitchers and batters all get along and the best team wins on effort and skill, not intimidation and petty unsportsmanlike conduct.

Baseball, of all sports, should be a family game. After all, if you follow your local team and watch all the promotional commercials and the video spots during games that show little tykes eating ice cream and parents smiling and waving at the camera while holding up their toddlers all adorned in team uniforms and hats, you’d think that it’s safe to take you little ones to the ballpark.

It’s hype. It’s far from the truth.

People in this wonderful land won’t learn from the past. And, despite the economic woes of the time, they’ll continue to spend their hard-earned money on a fantasy. Baseball, hot dogs, Cracker Jacks, the icons of the past, the 7th-inning stretch and the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, the soothing voices of those home team announcers, and a myriad of other selling points of baseball (don’t forget the nostalgic movies like Field of Dreams and The Natural, just to name two) all convince us to say, “Oh, what the heck!.”

Next time you have a chance to purchase your dream tickets, think about it. Does reality match perception?

Watch it on television instead.

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