Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The 2010 All-Star Game Did Not Take Place

With apologies to Jean Baudrillard and any diehard partisans of the National League, whose fifteen-year odyssey of suck came to an end Tuesday night, the 2010 All-Star Game did not take place.

That is to say, it did not take place outside of itself as a visual spectacle. There were baseball-like events that occurred on a field in California, but the thing we call the "2010 All-Star Game" occurred only insofar as it was a mediated event. We have to comprehend both "All-Star" and "Game" in the senses preapproved by the context of this spectacle in order to be able to experience what is commonly referred to as "the 2010 All-Star Game."

So what, then, is an "All-Star"? Much has been written on the relatively degraded nature of the All-Star rosters—a phenomenon perhaps ironically abetted by a perceived increase in "popular" input in recent years, as fans have been allowed to "vote" for a player, even as managers make whimsical choices and players choose (or make it seem as if they have no choice but) to not play even after being chosen. We can therefore not say with confidence that an "All-Star" is indisputably one of the best players in baseball at a given time, nor even that he is one of the most popular. All we can say is that an All-Star is someone who has "played" in an All-Star "Game."

But even that is going too far, as there are nearly always All-Stars who do not actually appear in the game. So we had better just say that an All-Star is someone who was named to the All-Star team—even though the All-Star "team" per se is, no matter what the roster, a collection of players who represent a number of other actual teams within a given league. Since the players on this team generally do not share the camaraderie, experience, and investment in the outcome of the "game" that a usual team embraces, we are now perilously close to saying that there is no team in "team."

Nor is there really a game in this "game." Despite transparently manipulative decisions by the Clown Prince of Hot Air to try to make the game "count" for something, the game is played unlike any other in the season. Beyond the artificial roster construction (let us not even consider the one-player-per-actual-team minimum), there is no significant effort on either side to field the best team for a given situation, though arguably the starters will be on balance a better collective group than those who replace them. Rather, just like in a very low level of Little League, the objective is make sure that nearly everyone plays. It's a sweet way to pander to fans nationwide, but it's not a baseball game.

There is no "game" in the sense that there is no "audience," either. Typically, baseball stands are filled with partisans, frequently for the home team though there are always exceptions, like the Mariners fan I once saw get torn limb from limb in the old Yankee Stadium bleachers while the crowd made reproduction-related suggestions to Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner, out in the field. But save for those fans who traveled to Anaheim to see a specific player from "their" team and those local fans there cheering for L.A.A.o.A. players, no one was genuinely rooting for either team, because no one actually loves a league. Like "the 2010 All-Star Game" itself, those "diehard partisans of the National League" I posited above do not exist.* Or if they do, they're extremely tedious.

To recap, then, certainly baseball players acted like themselves in Anaheim on Tuesday, and images of those actions were transmitted to the country. People watched hits, outs, swings, slides, and all the rest of it. The side comprising players from the National League accrued more runs. But it wasn't an All-Star Game, because the 2010 All-Star Game did not take place.

Don't believe me? Try meditating on the phrase "All-Star John Buck" and see if you don't come around.

Jean Baudrillard

* Yes, I know how the leagues are different, but that's not the issue. One doesn't cheer for a Pittsburgh Pirate simply because he happens to be in the league that doesn't use the DH.

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