So, apparently the Pacers are only going to show up to play against other playoff teams. That’s terrible, but hopefully they can find that switch come playoff time. I’ve got a bad feeling this season is headed towards a surprisingly quick end, though. The Blackhawks have been slumping headed into these last few games, too. Is the sky falling?
NO! Because it’s baseball season! As I write this, the Cubs and Pirates are about ten minutes away from first pitch.* It’s a wonderful time of year, especially so this year. As has been true for most of the country, it’s been a long, hard winter. Had you heard of a polar vortex before this year? I sure hadn’t, but I won’t soon forget it. There is very little in the world right now that could possibly be more pleasing than the impossibly green grass of a baseball cathedral contrasted against a deep blue sky with big, cottony puffs of clouds and the sun gently warming the world out of the deep thaw of this winter. I simply can’t comprehend looking at a picture like this and not immediately feeling all warm and fuzzy. It’s just impossible. And the time is finally here.
*The game will likely be over or close to it by the time this gets posted, but I won’t know any better. It’ll be waiting for me on my DVR. A major downside of day jobs: no live afternoon baseball.
In honor of this,* I was going to come up with my All Boozing Team, inspired by Shin-Soo Choo and his incident a few years ago. It’ll be great, I thought. As a sign famously once read, Babe Ruth did it on beer and hot dogs. Mickey Mantle famously lost years off his career (and life, really) because of his hard drinking, hard partying lifestyle. Patrick insisted Ty Cobb was enough of an alcholic to make any drinking list. More recently, there was Yovani Gallardo getting even more rip-roaringly drunk than Choo and trying to drive. Long story short, I didn’t really come up with a line up, but it wasn’t for a lack of candidates.
*And a Facebook conversation with my best lawyer friend, Patrick.
No, all things more carefully considered, I really did not realize just how sad drinking culture was around baseball. A quick Google search turns out story after story about guys who threw careers and lives away over drinking, and most of baseball just turns it into a laughing matter. From Mantle himself: “Mantle spoke with great remorse of his drinking in a 1994 Sports Illustrated cover story. He said that he was telling the same old stories, and realizing how many of them involved himself and others being drunk – including at least one drunk-driving accident – he decided they were not funny anymore. He admitted he had often been cruel and hurtful to family, friends, and fans because of his alcoholism, and sought to make amends.”
Look, it’s definitely not news that baseball and alcohol have a close and inseparable history. There is at least one very interesting looking* book dedicated to the subject about how breweries and baseball grew up together. It’s also no secret that baseball has had some drug problems throughout its history. From the greenies of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, cocaine in every damn sport in the 80’s, the steroids of the ‘90’s, there isn’t really any era of the game that can be totally considered clean.
*I can’t say I read it, but I did see it at my local Barnes & Noble while looking for Christmas presents for others. I very nearly bought it for either my brother or dad. Or myself.
All those things mentioned in that last bit, though? Those aren’t joking matters. Those were all taken very seriously more or less from the git. After doing some research for my initial idea, frankly, I didn’t have the heart to go through with it. Too many sad, sad stories in a culture that really seems like it needs some cleansing. Maybe it will never happen. Beer and baseball have always gone together. There’s a reason you don’t hear about beer league basketball or football. You don’t hear about nearly as many football stadiums named for breweries. Off the top of my head, you have Busch Stadium, Miller Park, and Coors Field in baseball. I can’t think of a single instance of a brewery naming (or owning) any teams in any other major professional sport.
Maybe some things are changing. It wasn’t long ago there was a bit of an uproar that most teams were taking alcohol out of their clubhouses. I was one of those that thought it was a silly move. I laughed right along with the rest of the sporting world about the “chicken and beer” Red Sox. But, you know, after reading quite a few passionate pleas from former All Stars, consider me a convert. Of course it’s fun to snicker at Tony LaRussa falling asleep at a red light at first, but it gets depressing quick when looking at the bigger picture.
Does that mean that I’m going to stop having beer at the ballpark? No, of course not. I’ll still drink when I watch games at home. But I can do it with some control, and I’m not one of the guys out there actually trying to play the game. I would like to be, sure. I tried to be one of those guys. I couldn’t hit well enough. But when we hear the wild exploits of ballplayers, well, I’m probably going to be looking at those stories a little differently now.
I’m sure somebody out there can put together a great All Buzzed Team. I’m sure with some time I could do it. But I no longer wish to do it. I know I’m not going to make an impact in changing the culture, but for whatever little piece it’s worth, I won’t contribute to it.
I will, however, continue to watch Bull Durham, even with the scene where they take the six pack to the stadium at night to get a rain out. To be perfectly fair, though, I never really cared for that scene even before taking a closer look at drinking in the game.