I had only completed my freshman year of college the last time the National League won the All Star game. It was the first year of the new Bank€€$ dynasty. It was the fourth year after realignment. It was a year after the Reds went to the NLCS. It was two years after The Strike.
The last time the NL won an All Star game, Hank Aaron was the homerun king, cheating meant a corked bat, and the Br€ad $ox hadn't won a World Series since before women were given the right to vote. It was before no one came to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Kansas City Royals. It was before big screens in every room, before there was a word "blog," before the great game of baseball drowned in the corporatocracy of €mperor Selig.
Last night, the All Star game received the lowest television ratings since we've been keeping track. Why is that? I'd like to throw out the possibility that it's because MLB has allowed €$PN and Fok$ to dictate to us which teams we can watch for more than a decade now, and people are exposed to the same teams, the number which you can count on both hands, and those teams didn't dominate the field. The Br€ad $ox were hurt and there was only one Bank€€ in the starting lineup. There were four Cincinnati Reds and four San Diego Padres on the NL team. (Gasp! They have TEAMS in those cities?)
How else do you explain it? Maybe everyone just turned it off because they thought the game would never start after that five hour pre-game show. Or maybe everyone's electricity went off in thunderstorms. Or maybe everyone is unemployed and had to sell their televisions. Is there a new Harry Potty movie that came out last night that I don't know about?
Meanwhile, the ratings were way up in Cincinnati, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching our guys. That victory felt like a Reds victory for me. It was exciting, it was worth watching, it was fun. How awesome was it to see Rolen and Phillips on the same All Star infield or to watch Votto and Rolen bat back-to-back? (You may have missed Votto if you blinked during either of his two ABs.)
So when the Reds are playing at Great American Ball(p)ark for Game 1 of the World Series against the Texass Rangers, will no one in the country outside of Cincinnati and Ohio expats and Dallas watch? (Who DID shoot JR?) Will €$PN and Fok$ and NB¢ conspire to destroy these two teams to ensure they don't make the playoffs and lower their ratings? (My tinfoil hat has a wishbone C on it.)
Major League Baseball thought it was making baseball more popular by promoting a handful of teams while ignoring the rest. In the end, it's going to kill it. Only 36% of Americans say they follow the "national pastime." Why should someone from Milwaukee or Oakland or Houston who wasn't born a baseball fan follow baseball in their hometowns (even when their teams are winning) when it's like those teams don't even exist on a map of America?
Who except us diehards knew Matt Thornton or Martin Prado or Evan Meeks or Matt Capps or John Buck or Omar Infante or Cory Hart (the other one) or Ian Kinsler or Andrew Bailey or that Ryan Braun is in reality bad at defense? I mean, people don't even know one of the best players in the game - Joey Votto - or the best non-Chutley second baseman in the game - Brandon Phillips. How would they? They're never on national television, and the major sports sites rarely give them any attention.
The Reds are going to be good for a long time, but will there be a bandwagon? Most people don't know that Cincinnati had the first professional team or has won more World Series than all but five teams (and tied with two others, plus Boston won all but two of theirs before the existence of the Soviet Union, so do they really count? Also, the Reds won an American Association title in 1882 when the AA was considered a Major League. They were only in it because they got kicked out of the National League for selling beer and playing on Sundays.)
I know the All Star game is a circus these days. I know I complain about this small market stuff all the time. I know the Reds were awful for the last decade. I know the Bank€€$ have been to 40 of the 105 World Series that have been played and their dominance is nothing new. It seems something about the game has fundamentally changed, and the lowest rated All Star game in television history is an indication of that.
But baseball has always been a business. It's just enshrouded in nostalgia and mystique and childhood memories that keep it pure in our minds.