Baseball sucks. Excuse the vernacular, but I am chucking polite turns of phrase, such as "The national pastime will never again be the same," and throwing off my cloak of journalistic objectivity so that I can reveal my true feelings as an outraged and enraged fan. The owners suck. The players suck. Baseball sucks.
Heretofore I was one of those wusses who rhapsodized about the pace and geometry and numerology and generational arcs of the game. I gloried in the marvelous summer of '94, basked daily in the exploits of Gwynn and Bagwell and Griffey and Williams. Had baseball left well enough alone, we might be watching assaults on .400 and 61, and unlikely pennant chases in Cleveland and Colorado, while the owners and players counted their money like Scrooge McDuck.
The stupid strike changed all that.
The only possible silver lining to this cloud is that the owners and players will hurt themselves so badly that they will never be tempted to do this again. But that's what some of us thought in 1981, when another strike deprived us of the middle third of the season. No, these men cannot be trusted to learn from their mistakes. So it's up to the fans to teach these idiots a lesson they'll never forget.
September 25, 1994
Now there are a number of so-called fan organizations out there: United Baseball Fans of America, Sports Fans United and my own personal favorite, People in Support of Our Teams (call it psst). Each of them, however, appears to be about as effective as Mitch Williams (or as the owners' negotiator, Dick Ravitch—take your pick). But they are manifestations of real animosity among fans. And that resentment is an energy that can be harnessed for useful purposes.
So here, free of charge, is a fanifesto, a list of things that a grassroots lobby (Royally Outraged Over This Egregiously Ridiculous Strike, also known as ROOTERS) should do to keep the Selig-mites and Fehr-mongers honest.
Civics 101. Write Congressman Whatshisname and Senator Whatshername and let them know that baseball's antitrust exemption is hogwash and that you have a thousand friends who vote the way you do. The owners fear repeal of the exemption because then they might actually be held accountable to Congress and the courts and the free market.
What Season? A few years ago baseball decided that a no-hitter was not official if it didn't go at least nine innings. By that rationale it's not a season if it doesn't go 162 games. So don't buy a season ticket until you can be assured that the 1995 schedule will be played in full, with real major league players. Personally, I think every '94 season-ticket holder should sue for breach of promise, but my legal experts tell me such cases would be dismissed. However, if you're worried that your team will give away your coveted seat if you don't renew this winter, you may be able to join a class-action suit against the club to hold season-ticket holders' seats until the strike is over.
Frankly, Don't Give a Damn. Spiritually, we might need to go to games, and we might have to shell out $10 to $20 per ticket, but we would be better off, nutritionally and financially, if we didn't eat the ballpark's overpriced hot dogs. Bring your own food and beverages—no alcohol, cans or bottles, please—and avoid concession stands like the plague. That could eventually lead to lower prices for the stale popcorn so oversalted it makes you scream for the drink vendor.
Cap the Caps. If you really want to hurt the owners and players, stop buying Major League Baseball licensed merchandise. Try not to succumb to guilt just because you don't have the Florida Marlin "Sunday away" cap. There's big money in baseball's changing fashions; there's also big-time cynicism. And fans are fools to fall for every new logo switch.
Silence Is Golden. Don't boo the players on Opening Day, whenever that may be. Don't cheer them, either. Just watch the games in silence and let them know just how empty it felt this September. If you can't keep quiet on Opening Day, try next Aug. 12, the anniversary of the day the strike was declared, or Sept. 14, one year to the day after the owners killed this season. Maybe vows of silence will catch on the way the Wave did.
Don't Touch That Scab. Cincinnati Red owner Marge Schott claims we'll come out to see replacement players: "The fans would say, 'Let's see the real players instead of the million-dollar babies.' " Do you want to prove this woman right? Do you want to prove you're as dumb as the NFL fans who went to those amateur hours in 1987? By the same token, don't start salivating over the proposed players' league. That, too, will be an inferior product. The continuity of baseball is essential to its appeal. We know that, even if the players and owners don't.
They take our money, but they take us for suckers, and they take us for granted. I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take—or give—any more. Repeat after me: I am Fan. Hear me roar. In numbers too big to ignore.