Friday, October 25, 2013

What Happened to the Boys of October?

Flipping through the channels last night between recorded television shows (face it, the only thing we watch live any more is football and kids' TV), we stopped briefly on the World Series.

Ok, first of all, it's not really the World Series. I know for a fact that they play baseball in places other than North America, but baseball isn't really my game so I'm not going to argue with them.

We watched part of an inning while getting our schedules aligned (OK, he watched one part, then I watched the other, but anyway). And well, I was shocked.

First of all there were the beards. Since I don't do baseball, I didn't know about the fear the beard. But I do understand athletes and fans who won't change something once a winning streak begins. I don't personally agree, but I get it.

The big thing that got me was, well, the size. "What happened to baseball players?" I asked my husband naively. As the man of the house, he is supposed to be the expert on all things sports related, right?

While never a big baseball fan, like any high schooler who could get out of class early by going to a baseball game, I have actually attended a few games. In high school the baseball team was made up of the athletes who weren't big enough for football, or tall enough for baseball. OK, so actually it was made up of the same bunch of jocks, but the ones who were good in baseball were the ones who played guard in basketball or quarterback in football. They were, by and large, smaller than the football stars. You were generally not going to look at a guy and be told he played sports and put him starring on the wrong team.

But with the possible exception of the pitchers, the guys I watched playing baseball looked like they'd be just as comfortable in a football jersey.

"Steroids," my husband replied.

"I thought they got those out," I resumed.

"Yes, well, this is what happened."

If I understand the process steroids turn everything to muscle, and when the steroids go away, well the muscle turns to what we used to call table muscle. Seriously, these guys were big. They didn't run, they lumbered. The only thing fast on the field was the pitch and it wasn't even as fast as the last time I tuned in to World Series (which seriously was about 12 years ago while I was redoing my living room floor and working late at night, so steroids were probably a factor).

Add the beards to the bellies and honestly, it looked like the team could have been recruited from the local bar. Or hauled in out of the bleachers.

I watched the Red Sox batter slug a home run into the bleachers and jog leisurely around the diamond. Well, it was a good thing he didn't have to really run, I thought before flipping back to recorded TV.

And then I thought to myself, I'm sad for baseball.

I'm sad for the little boys who start out playing Little League and really get interested in baseball and talk their parents into letting them watch the World Series. I'm sad for little boys who may get the idea that beards and bellies are a requirement and look at their little arms and legs and decide they may never be ball players.

Sure, the really athletic kids will get the coaching and encouragement they need to go on. But the other kids need their dreams and heroes, too.

Whatever baseball has been, it has always been called the American sport, the sport where the heroes weren't as likely to be thugs in their off time, even when steroids meant they were cheaters on the field. Now their image is sullied in other ways with fields full of guys who really don't look like athletes and who really need a shave.

Here's hoping it can, perhaps soon, really turn that image around into not just post-steroid, but to real athletes and real record breakers again.

The real fans and future generations of Little Leaguers deserve that.

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