“Cold beer! Eight dollars! Get your cold beer right here!” The sounds and smells of “America” filled the crisp fall air; hot dogs, $8 Budweiser, and the sharp crack of a bat.
I went to my first Major League Baseball game this past week, a 4-3 Cardinals’ win over the Washington Nationals. Between checking the Monday Night Football score on my phone and worrying I might get a parking ticket, I actually watched some of the game; It was exactly what I expected.
While people detest football for its unnecessary violence, loath soccer because neither team ever seems to score and abhor basketball for its showboating stars, baseball has none of these things. In fact, baseball doesn’t really have anything to hang its pine tar-covered hat on. National media likes to focus on shamed stars like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Roger Clemens, focusing on rampant steroid use while simply ignoring its obvious presence in other sports. While all the evidence pointed to Lance Armstrong being juiced up as he rode through the French Alps, winning seven Tour de France titles in the process, the media ignored the signs, instead choosing to ignorantly praise him as lionhearted. And have you looked at most National Football League players lately? 6-foot-4, 265 lbs. linebackers run 40-yard dashes in the same amount of time it takes to turn on your car’s ignition.
All this ignores the remaining innocence and integrity of baseball. Perhaps no team embodies this professionalism more than your St. Louis Cardinals. The squad has perhaps the most well-run front office in sports, consistently competing with large-market teams despite having payrolls sometimes just half of the largest franchises (The New York Yankees’ 2013 payroll was $228 million; the Cardinals had the 11th largest payroll in MLB, at $116 million). They don’t do it with gimmicks or numbers, just hard-nosed, good-old-fashioned American baseball. Albert Pujols wants $250 million? Not worth it; let’s pay Yadier Molina, the best catcher in baseball, more money instead. And while the Cardinals have made a living off economizing, off bringing young prospects through their farm system, they’ve failed to bring some of these same values to Busch Stadium.
Nothing is more American, more pure than sitting back and enjoying some Cracker Jack while yelling obscenities at the opposing pitcher from the upper deck. But what’s so American about drinking an $8 Budweiser brewed down the street? We sat in section 329, high over right field; these were salt-of-the-Earth type people up here. They paid $8 for a ticket; you expect them to pay another $8 to enjoy a cold one at the game? Get real. Your kid wants some cotton candy? Got $6? What happened to those good old American values: bargain beer and cheap, sugary snacks?
Now, most would rather enjoy the game on their 72-inch plasma television, flipping to catch the latest drama on “Real Housewives” in between innings. It’s the new American way, no $6 cotton candy required.
Listen, if baseball is America’s pastime, shouldn’t it be affordable to all Americans? Everyone should be able to stuff some cotton candy in their mouths while singing “Take Me out to the Ballgame.”
Only in baseball could Matt Adams, the Cardinals’ first baseman for the night, a 6-foot-2, 260 lbs. man with no apparent athletic ability, be called an athlete. Only in baseball could Prince Fielder, a 275 lbs. player who can barely run around the bases without keeling over, wow fans with his athletic ability. Most Americans know they can never be a 6-foot-8 freak of nature like LeBron James. Watching baseball players gives hopes to the rest of sports fans. It lets them sit around and watch a game saying, “look at him, I could do that if I tried!” All while they continue munching on their Doritos.
But now, many fans would rather spend their hard-earned dollars on different forms of entertainment, something that won’t lose their kids’ interest after the first pitch.
Instead of giving back to their gracious fans after winning their 11th World Series, the Cardinals used it as an excuse to raise prices by a couple dollars, intent on squeezing every dollar they can out of their success. And isn’t this a microcosm of the new “American way?” the profit motive has taken precedent over concern for one’s neighbor. Charity has been overrun by greed.
And I just want a cheap box of Cracker Jack in my hand while I yell profanities at the opposing team’s pitcher.