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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kramer explains allure of baseball and golf

Ah, spring. The air is warm, the grass is fresh, the trees are newly green and the squirrels are less standoffish. Yes, it’s a wonderful time—especially for sports fans, who are treated to several entertaining spectacles. This month is for many athletics enthusiasts what a “Designing Women” marathon is to your divorced great-aunt—what shark week is for Tracy Morgan—what panda porn is for pandas. In college, we get the championship tournaments of men’s and women’s basketball and men’s hockey. In the professional realm, we get the Masters Tournament, MLB Opening Day, the NFL draft and the start of both NBA and NHL playoffs. But I approach April’s sporting smorgasbord skeptically. Sure, these events have a lot of fans, but I fear I will derive less enjoyment from this month. See, I’m willfully oblivious to professional baseball and, apologies to fellow S&B Sports columnist and ace golfer Kunal Bansal, but I would sooner watch grapes turn into raisins/a Major League Soccer (MLS) game than professional golf.

I’ll begin with why I don’t care a lick about the start of “America’s Pastime,” Major League Baseball (MLB). The number one reason, of course, is steroids. Performance-enhancing substances have tainted this entire era of baseball. The greatest players of our generation like Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Gary Sheffield, Roger Clemens, etc. have been implicated in steroid use. At this point, if Albert Pujols or Derek Jeter is exposed as a user, the sport loses all credibility. There’s a part of me that loves the offense-driven play of the Steroid Era, but I can’t see records like Babe Ruth’s and Hank Aaron’s broken by cheaters. Besides, it’s a slippery slope from steroid use to more outlandish performance enhancements like, say, bionics. And nobody wants a bunch of buff, ill-tempered robots out there capable of taking control of our major cities. So unlike Lil Wayne, I do not support allowing all substances into baseball. 

My other grievances with MLB are more fixable. I’m originally from Kansas City, so I’m a Royals fan. In recent history, this has meant that baseball has nothing to offer me. I needn’t pay any attention because the Royals will inevitably come in last in their division and near last in the league (if they don’t set a record for losses in a season). American League Cy Young Award Winner Zack Greinke has gotten my attention, but last year the Royals faded like it was their job after a great start. It would be one thing if the Royals were terrible because they were mismanaged, but I blame most of the Royals’ woes on their inability to keep the talent they scout and draft because of baseball’s lack of a salary cap. Teams from small markets like Kansas City simply don’t make the revenue from TV and marketing that teams from New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. So while there are some small-market success stories—the Devil Rays, Tigers, and Cardinals, come to mind—such teams are holographic Charizards amongst the multitude of Energy Card Yankees or BoSox that buy the best roster.

The reasons I’m not a golf fan are very different. I like watching baseball, I just don’t feel like the MLB has integrity as a league. In contrast, I take about as much sporting interest in golf as I do in Antiques Roadshow. I don’t like watching golf and could care less about its integrity issues, all which seem to take place away from the course in places like nightclubs frequented by Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods’ house, restaurants Tiger Woods ate at or Tiger Woods’ car. Before last weekend, I had never watched more than five minutes of televised golf, and I have played the game just a handful of times, miniature golf excluded. I changed that last Sunday, watching the final round of the Masters online all day and occasionally looking at my homework for stretches of up to five or 10 seconds at a time. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really enjoy it either. I couldn’t get over the overly precious reverence of the TV commentary, for one thing. This sort or thing was pretty standard: ‘A picture, indeed a thousand words…The Masters,’ ‘A fist-pump from Westwood, a fist-pump from Mickelson!’ and  ‘Once more, with feeling, Mickelson wins The Masters.’ At times the commentators’ bon mots were reminiscent of a certain loquacious, vaguely British Off-Campus Study Director. 

I did see why some people obsess over televised golf, however. I understood why every single person in the crowd was positively grinning the whole time and exuberantly hollering “Phil!” after a good drive—the sport has some drama. The last few holes of the final round between Mickelson and Lee Westwood were genuine, edge-of-your-seat excitement, even though the Phil-harmonic’s lead was never less than two strokes. Golf also has plenty of visual appeal, especially when it takes place at sunset on a course as beautiful as Augusta National. Each shot carried its own modicum of suspense, but even in the most prestigious tournament in golf, I frequently found myself checking out the ridiculous clothing on the grinning white people who comprised the crowd (pastel polos and sun hats). But there’s too much down-time in the broadcast, too much time watching Phil line up a shot, then his caddy line up the shot, then Phil line it up again, then Phil practice swing eight times before missing the putt and doing it all again. 

That’s why I want to play, rather than watch, more golf—all the fun, less waiting and much less stringent scoring. Who knows, with Kunal’s help maybe someday a golf announcer will shout, “And a fist-pump from McLuckie! Truly a thousand words!” Unless they put Lil Wayne in charge and I have to compete with the cyborgs.

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