Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Baseball and Politics: Big Games, Little Bodies

Friends and family in Westport, Connecticut are all agog over a bunch of 12-year-old boys playing baseball in the Little League World Series starting tonight in Williamsport, Pa. and televised on national TV.

While Big League counterparts are mired in steroid scandals, these pre-teens symbolize the purity that the national pastime used to signify in more naïve times, a reminder of how much in American life has been corrupted by a do-anything desire to get bigger and stronger.

Whatever these pubescent kids lack in strength and skill, they will reward us with the sight of how untainted competition used to be. In a society more divided than ever into haves and have-nots, we will briefly glimpse a level playing field once again.

There has always been and will be some cheating—-Ty Cobb’s spikes, pitchers’ spitballs, pine tar on bats—-but those were misdemeanors compared to today’s scandals in which A-Rod and others are being punished for bulking up their bodies illegally while lovers of the game wait for more shoes to drop. Where did all those pitchers who throw 100 miles an hour come from?

Cynics will blame multi-million-dollar contracts, but money alone is not at the root of all this evil. Like politics, baseball is about power and prestige as well and it’s harder than ever for pure-hearted kids to hold on to the ideal of the game as they grow up.

Life on the diamonds is not as simple as it used to be, and neither is the political competition led by the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

On ESPN and ABC in the coming week, we will witness the absolute love of a game that we mostly see these days only on the movie channels in “Field of Dreams” and “The Natural.”

It would be heartening to see some of it on CNN and other cable news about the political games in our time.

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