Oh, but I'm not done with my sports updates and commentary! As you are all no doubt aware, baseball season has started up again. You are all aware of this because baseball is the national pastime. It is our nation's favorite sport.
Okay, you all got me. I'm just kidding. I view baseball as being largely a joke. What irritates me about baseball is how there is this constant and obsessive coverage of it. Let's get one thing straight people (and by people here I mean baseball "experts" and whoever else those people are who are paid to comment about baseball on places like ESPN) , the baseball season ends when the World Series ends. There is way too much attention and importance placed on the stupid baseball winter meetings. Who cares about the winter meetings?! During the winter, football is going on. During the winter, hockey is going on. During the winter, basketball is going on. These sports are actually in the drives for championships, but for some insane reason people are providing too much coverage about guys discussing the right price for some free agent washed up pitcher. (And here's a hint: the right price that is settled on is invariably too high.) I don't believe you hear nearly the amount of discussions about the other leagues' off-season dealings as you hear for baseball, but maybe I'm wrong and I view it as such because I despise baseball.
But in addition to my disdain for the seemingly ceaseless coverage of the winter meetings, why is there such a big deal made when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in early February? Do you know what's going on in early February? The Super Bowl is going on in early February. Hockey has passed its midpoint and teams are jockeying for playoff position. Basketball has passed its midpoint and teams are jockeying for playoff position. Perhaps the only other of these sports where an overwhelmingly big deal is ascribed to the start of its preseason is football. But this fact for football is almost acceptable since football has actually reached a point where its popularity has clearly outdistanced that of any of the other sports. It is almost acceptable.
However, the thing that perhaps annoys me the most about baseball is how unbelievably overrated the players are as athletes. I'm not saying that each and every one of the players is overrated individually as an athlete, but rather that collectively they are. Or to be more precise, I'm saying that the athletes in the NFL, NBA, and NHL are collectively superior to those in MLB. And how can I be so sure? Well, quite simply, you have more incidents of baseball players playing well into their forties and being dominant well into their forties than you have for the other sports. As an example, Roger Clemens won the National League Cy Young Award in 2004 for being voted as having had the most outstanding pitching season in that particular league. Do you know how old Roger Clemens was in 2004? Roger Clemens turned forty-two during the 2004 season. But Roger Clemens is one of the all-time greats, so maybe that explains it. But wait one moment. Michael Jordan played his last season during the 2002-2003 NBA season, and it is almost sacrilege to say that anyone other than Jordan was the greatest basketball player in the game's history. Jordan turned forty during that season (two years younger than Clemens was during his 2004 Cy Young season), but he did not come anywhere close to being named MVP. In fact, he was to some degree a shadow of his former self. He did make the All-Star team, but this was probably more of a courtesy, a thanks for the great memories, than was it really deserving. Would you care to guess which of these two athletes, Clemens or Jordan, was named by ESPN as the greatest North American Athlete of the Twentieth Century? It was Jordan. And where did Clemens fall on this list? I don't know, but it wasn't in the top 100 (http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/athletes.html).
Now, why reference the Jordan comparison? It's quite simple - if Jordan is regarded by "experts" as being one of the greatest (if not the greatest) North American athlete of the Twentieth Century and his skills had clearly eroded by the time he entered his early forties, than what does that say about a game where a forty-two year old pitcher can be considered the best pitcher in one of the leagues? It says one of two things: either the players of that particular sport really aren't collectively great athletes (since the Jordan example would seem to indicate that athletic ability erodes with age), or it says that an alarmingly large number of those athletes are on drugs, steroids perhaps.
Think about it; what other "sports" can you think of where older athletes can compete on the same level as younger athletes? The examples that come to my mind are golf, auto racing, poker, and professional wrestling. In the case of professional wrestling, the events are staged. In the case of those other activities, how often are the competitors considered greatest athlete material? Rarely, if ever. Baseball had its era, but it is no longer great in comparison to other sports. Let's acknowledge this fact and not pretend otherwise.