Say It Ain’t So, Joe?

Baseball.
America’s pastime.
Cracker Jacks and hot dogs.
Iced cold sodas and even colder beers.
Three hours of pure Americana– a timeless sport of modern heroes.
The strike of the ball, the swing of the bat, the crowd.
A coalescence of all walks of like coming together to cheer on the home team.

Danger.  Danger.  Warning, Will Robinson.  Warning, Will Robinson.

A coalescence?
Absolutely in 1950.
Definitely in 1980.
Probably in 2000.
Today?

It is almost impossible for an average American family to attend a ball game.  I find this reality to be somewhat of a tragedy, a precursor signaling the onset of the “us and them” attitudes of the rich and average.

We are a family of five.  My husband and I both work full-time.  We pay our mortgage, our car payments, and our taxes.  We find enough money to support the kids’ activities, and in the summer, when the city is bustling, we want to get involved and have our children experience life for all it has to offer.  We want them to feel a kinship with their fellow Clevelanders and become true enthusiasts and supporters of all this city has to offer.

“Let’s go to a ballgame!” 

What a great idea!

Then I look at ticket prices.

Within the last five years, what used to be a twenty dollar ticket  has skyrocketed to $55.00 a seat.  How do I justify spending close to $300.00 just to walk through the door (I’m taking into account Ticketmaster charges and parking)?   Once I factor in concessions, we are probably looking at another $100.00.  What middle class American family can afford to attend multiple games in the summer knowing this is what they will be spending?   Sure, we could go to one, maybe even two, but I LOVE baseball and I want to attend more than that!

I try to rationalize.

It’s only money.  Sounds good until I look at my checking account and sure wish I had an extra four bills to put toward the landscaping project in the backyard.

Tom and I could just go.  Well dang it, that defeats the whole “family” thing I’ve got going on.

We could pawn two off at a time, and only take one at a time.  Yes, we could do that, but the bonds of sisterhood can be formed over a blustering rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” that lands them all beaming on the jumbotron.

So, I am left with a few options: break the bank or skip the game and feel a slight sense of guilt because I cannot afford to give my children what I want them to have.

I guess baseball has finally entered into the arena with all other major league sports.  The problem is that no other sport plays 164 games in regular season.  The other sports can charge more because in a world of supply and demand, there are less seats in relation to the length of the season.  When taking into consideration they Browns only play eight home games, it is much easier to rationalize a more expensive seat.

Maybe the sport of baseball will remember that they need me to be able to bring my girls to five or six games a year so that they will develop into the baseball aficionados that I am, and someday, want to share the love of the sport with their own children.

Our family used to try to support the Indians a few times a year.  However, it seems impossible.  Maybe its just a sign of the times.  Baseball has moved itself into the realm of the other major markets who aren’t looking at “the family” as their customer any longer.

Sometimes, when I want to be able to embrace the spirit of sitting in the ballpark, I feel as if I have been tricked.  I feel as disappointed as that young fan standing outside the courthouse in 1920; the boy who thought of Joe Jackson as a paladin: a regular guy living out a dream one home run at a time.  However, it was a ruse, a curveball of the greatest proportions.  “Say it ain’t so Joe.”  Maybe, the greed of Joe Jackson has always been the driving stimulus of our sport, and I have been tricked into believing they were playing for me, my city, and for the love of the game itself.

 

 

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An Open Letter to Nick Swisher

Dear Nick,

On behalf of the people of Cleveland, I want to say “Thank You.”  Thank you for having a heart.

Last week, when I found out that you were single-handedly paying for the fireworks show after Saturday’s game, I was moved.  What a kind gesture!  I was so touched that I began telling my friends about it because I viewed this gesture as purely altruistic.

Sadly, my coworkers and friends did not see it the way I did.  “So?  He can afford it.  He’s making millions.”

To be honest, Nick, I was kind of deflated by their pessimism.  Why does it matter if you can afford it or not?  Does kindness have to come only from those who struggle to give it?  Does benevolence have to cost the giver?

I think I understand your generosity in a way others do not.  You see, there are a great many people with money who are not paying for fireworks shows just to provide twenty minutes of entertainment for the average Joe.  Sure, like you, they make amazing donations to charities and foundations, money well spent because it helps provide research and assistance to people who are in true need.

All donations are laudable, but something about this donation was different to me.  You wanted to do something nice just for the sake of doing something nice, and in the true spirit of an altruistic giver, I believe you are not expecting anything in return.

In a world of pessimists where worth is based on the consistency of one’s batting average, it is easy to see why so many other players see themselves as transient.  Many players do not take stake in a community because they are afraid of “the trade” or what will come at the end of their contracts.  Many players are in cities, and as much as they may love their teams, they never fall in love with the city and feel truly rooted in it.

Nick, I personally feel that your positivity and energy are good for this city.  It is obvious to me that you have rooted yourself in our community, and you embody the change you expect to see.  Whether you realize it or not, like the pebble that skips across the water creating rings, your efforts are creating a rippling effect in Cleveland.  Your passion and excitement are infectious!

Thanks again,

Cheryl

Everyone does NOT get a Trophy

I have been giving a great deal of thought as of late to the direction in which our society is moving.  Sadly, in the course of the last thirty years, we have gone from a society that reveled in competition to a society that is afraid to laud accomplishments.  Some quack looked at self-esteem in the seventies and said, “Wow, people who accomplish a great deal have amazing self-esteem.  Hmmm, maybe if we work on bolstering self-esteem, everyone will accomplish a great deal!”  The problem is that self-esteem does not create accomplishment; accomplishment creates self-esteem.

Even though it is faulty logic, the general public loved the idea.  Suddenly, we went from a society of clear winners and losers, to a society that doesn’t like to keep score.  This is a problem to me.  At young ages, children are learning a false sense of capability.  As these children grow and mature, they are not learning a true work ethic.  Why work hard?  Everyone gets a trophy!  Why study hard?  Curriculums in schools have been so manipulated as to make sure that mediocre is the new A.  (This is reality, folks.  I’m a teacher.)

So what we are saying is that no one is average? But, isn’t average the numerical mean?  Half are above average, the other half below.  Yet, in our society, no one wants to believe that they or their children can be something average or less, and so, we have to create ways to bolster their egos so that without putting in any effort, they feel that they are great.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, the buck stops here.  I refuse to play into this movement any longer.  This summer, I coached my eight-year old daughter’s softball team.  To say that they were terrible would be an understatement.  We lost the first two games by over fifteen runs.  In the third game, one of the fathers helped me coach.  After we lost 18-9 (Oh yes, we were improving.  It’s all about teaching the fundamentals.), one of the girls asked, “Who won?”  The father replied, “I don’t know, I think it was super close.”  Hearing him, I whipped around and flatly said, “We lost 18-9.”

You know what happened?  It motivated her.  She did not cry.  Her feelings were not hurt.  She looked at me and said, “I’m going to get my dad to work on batting with me over the weekend.”  Yes, that’s right.  She was motivated to do better!  She wanted to win, and she realized that winning means improving, which means work.

trophy

Two games later, a parent came up to me and said, “Are we going to buy the girls trophies at the end of the season?”

To be honest, I might not have handled it correctly.  I laughed.  “Umm, we have not won a game.  What would they be getting trophies for exactly?” I said.  The mother’s mouth dropped open.  “I’m sorry, I just don’t buy into everyone gets a trophy.” I continued.  She smiled curtly and walked away.   No one got a trophy for our season, but when they won their first game in the second to last week, the look on their faces and their excitement in their accomplishment was a reward in itself.

Yesterday, I started coaching my middle daughter’s cheerleading squad.  I coached last year, and when I was asked to return, I agreed.  Last year, midway through the season, I made a spirit stick.  I was trying to motivate the girls to work harder and be spirited.  At the end of each practice and game, I rewarded it to someone.  However, last year, I felt pressure to make sure every girl got it.  By the end of the season, even the girls who never deserved it, got to take it home.  I fed into the idea that I couldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.  But not this year.  This year, in our first team meeting, I read the girls the statement I wrote in the information packet I gave to the parents.

THE SPIRIT STICK: At the end of each practice and game, I will reward one cheerleader the Spirit Stick.  To be eligible, the cheerleader must be on-time to the practice or game, participate willingly, be loud and enthusiastic, not participate in horseplay, and exemplify what a true sportsman is.  I am not a proponent of “everyone gets a trophy.”  The girl who gets the stick will earn it!  The cheerleader is welcome to take the Spirit Stick home and bring it back at the next practice or game.

I said to these nine and ten-year old girls, “If you want the stick, you have to work for it.  Do you all understand?”  They shook their heads, and I swear, I saw a little fire in some of their eyes.  This first practice was the best practice I have ever had!

I am teaching these kids that if you want to be good, you have to work at it.  And when they get good, the self-esteem will follow!