It’s supposed to be the highlight of the Midsummer Classic. More exciting than the All-Star Game itself, they say. Brings out the little kid in all of us, we’re told, this amazing display of power and might that lifts us right up out of our seats.
Sure. I’ll rise out of my seat for a couple of glorified batting practice sessions — about the same time I rise to cheer on a bunch of losers shoving wet hot dogs down their throats and risking serious mandibular injury for something called the Mustard Belt.
Yes, I’ll get excited about Home Run Derby right after I catch my breath from the latest scintillating bass-fishing competition on ESPN, where those guys who look like they’re auditioning for the new Brawny paper towel commercial sit around in streams pre-stocked with oversized fish, patiently waiting for the camera to turn away from them so they can chug another Pabst from the Styrofoam cooler hidden under their tackle box.
I’ll get just as jacked up for tonight’s Derby as I used to for the NBA All-Star 2-Ball contest, in which WNBA players we never heard of competed with real NBA stars in the most desperate pairing of athletes to save a failing league since XFL owner Vince McMahon put linebackers Dick Butkus and Brian Bosworth together to talk trash about the NFL.
The Home Run Derby, along with the insufferable Chris Berman’s old, tired and forced “Back, back, back!” calls, outlived its usefulness years ago. It’s the Chevy Chase of skills competitions.
I mean, we’re talking about senior citizen bullpen coaches throwing 65 mph belt-high “fastballs” into the wheelhouses of puffed-up superstars who are more than likely cheating to boot. (Remember Sammy Sosa’s corked bat? The one he claimed was a BP bat that he used only when putting on rocket-launching shows for his fans?)
The entire event is a joke, yet all we’ve heard in the last week or so is how disappointing it is that Barry Bonds won’t be participating in the Derby in his home park, in what will likely be his final All-Star appearance. Can you blame him? After all, fans around the country boo every time Bonds does hit a home run — and now we complain when he actually refuses to hit them? Give the guy a break.
But wait a second. Hold on. Let’s ponder this for a moment or two. Let’s consider the two entities involved:
On one hand, we have Barry Bonds, the man who used an inexplicable, late-career home run barrage fueled by freakishly large muscles to put himself within four home runs of the most hallowed record in baseball history.
On the other hand, we have Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby, an embarrassing display of fraudulent power in which home runs that don’t mean anything are pounded out in record numbers in San Francisco.
Holy testosterone! They DO belong together! Barry and the Derby — a match made in hell!
Looks like I owe MLB a big apology! If Barry’s in, I WILL watch tonight’s televised batting practice! Right after I finish the 1996 World Series of Poker on VHS. And after the Michelle Wie highlight show on the Golf Channel. After Fox’s “50 Best Damn Hilarious Mascot Hijinks.” And after a Jeanette “Black Widow” Lee billiards trick-shot special on ESPN. And a two-hour video loop of Emmitt Smith’s winning performance on “Dancing With the Stars.”
By then, I’ll watch the batting practice thing. I promise.
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.