Under The Bleachers: When The Stars Align

Above: Derek Jeter doesn't take the All-Star Game too seriously

Over the course of any long season there are more than a few pointless games. But none are ever as overblown, as useless or as boring as the one featuring the most talented players in the game.

It doesn’t even matter which sport you’re talking about, every all-star game winds up as an exaggerated pick-up game where there are no stakes, no one plays defence—or tries very hard on offence, for that matter—and, for all the excitement going in, there’s nothing but disappointment to be had for fans.

Of course, all-star games are a lucrative part of the business. They offer opportunities to sell a few thousand more tickets, rake in more TV money, sell some commemorative merchandise—and that’s exactly why they aren’t going anywhere. But there are downsides for teams and their players, too.

Imagine if Sidney Crosby stepped on a stick in the all-star game and ended up with another concussion; imagine if LeBron James landed awkwardly after another uncontested all-star dunk and messed up his knee; imagine if Clayton Kershaw had been hit with a comeback liner in Tuesday’s all-star game. Any one of these things could reasonably have happened, and could still happen, in a game that’s essentially a popularity contest where the winners are announced weeks ahead of time.  Most of the players who make the MLB all-star game will be watching the World Series on TV, so what do they care about one extra playoff home game for the winning team?

They really, really don’t care.

National League starting pitcher Adam Wainwright admitted he wasn’t really trying—Wainwright said he took it easy on Derek Jeter so the Yankees’ shortstop could get at least one hit in his final all-star game.  But like Jeter responded, “you still have to hit it.”

Baseball seems like it has the most competitive all-star games, but that’s because the game of baseball is inherently unpredictable. Any team could rack up 15 runs in any given game; likewise, every team could put together a two-hit shutout at some point, so you’re just as likely to see last year’s 3-0 score as the 13-8 slugfest from 1998. 

But the final score of last season’s NBA all-star game was 163-155, an absurd score that reflects the absence of defence more than the scoring ability of the players. The last NHL all-star game finished 12-9, and the one before it 11-10—after the first half-dozen goals it’s not even fun to watch the players try to pass it into the net or attempt trick shots they dreamed up in practice. Basketball and hockey in particular need to realize they’re putting on a boring game and ditch it.

The NFL is closer to getting it right by scheduling the Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl is over and far from any place NFL football is played, conceding that the whole thing amounts to a free trip to Hawaii for the chosen players and that it holds zero importance as an actual game. Of course, by the time the Super Bowl’s over even the diehard NFL fans have had enough already. 

The hype never matches the payoff, and we never get a memorable, truly competitive game. What we get is a sport’s best players risking injury to play a half-assed game that means nothing to the standings and less to the players themselves. Let’s stop pretending it’s meaningful to us fans, either.

Tags: Baseball

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