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Boycott isn’t the answer, but please scale back

Rick Chandler, Tribune correspondent

Today’s the day of the big baseball boycott. This means, of course, that you cannot attend a major league game, and no baseball on TV. Also, turn your radio to the all-salsa station for the next 24 hours.

And you, there — yeah, you! I saw you peaking at the box scores on page B4 — that’s not allowed! In fact, after you’re done reading this column, please exit the sports section immediately, and with as little noise as possible (other readers are trying to sleep).

In case you never got the word, several organizations are cobbling together baseball boycotts for today, with one, The MLB Fans Boycott, advocating a weeklong boycott. It seems that fans are fed up, and are rushing to their computers and shouting, “We’re not going to take it anymore!” At sites such as WetheFans.com, MLBFanStrike.com and Takebackbaseball.com, the plan of attack is to cause a one-day blackout in major league baseball.

Tuesday’s All-Star Non-Game provided a great launching pad for the malcontents. Witness the following comments over at Petitiononline.com, where The MLB Fans Boycott is circulating an online petition to stay away from Major League Baseball beginning today and running through July 14 (there are about 2,000 signatures so far):

“I’ve been a baseball fan for 47 years and will boycott permanently if there is another labor stoppage.” — CN, Colorado.

“Players should not define themselves as ‘labor.’ They are insulting the blue collar workers of America by doing so.” — TB, Santa Rosa, Calif.

“All-Star fiasco, potential strike/lockout, steroids, competitive imbalance, You are ruining our national pastime and a game I truly love. Think sport, not business! Shame on you!” — JH, Milwaukee.

“Dear God after the sham of an All-Star Game, what next?” — RK.

“I am sick of home runs.” — BH, Columbia City, Indiana.

Baseball fans have indeed been pushed to the edge, and are capable of anything at this point (with the possible exception of BH above, who is just grouchy). It’s true that baseball is at a crossroads here, and Bud Selig and the Major League owners and players union need to sit down and hammer out a few agreements. Another work stoppage, only eight years after the last major one, would be a disaster.

But should fans organize to stay away from baseball? Before you go through with this, here are some things you should know about a Major League Baseball boycott:

n As with any boycott, at some point Martin Sheen will arrive on the premises. Of course, that will oblige the police to step in and place him under arrest (that’s just the way it works), and do you want your child to see the President of the United States led away in handcuffs? I witnessed such an event in 1974 and still carry the scars to this day.

n More camera time for Bud Selig. With boycotts popping up all over America like so many wildfires, Major League Baseball will be in full damage control. That means Selig press conferences four or five days a week, and let’s face it, he’s no Tom Cruise. He has all the personal charisma of Alan Greenspan, with none of the fiscal smarts. Selig’s mug on my TV every day? I’d rather watch Bill Gates explain Windows ME.

n The horror of minor league mascots. In avoiding Major League Baseball, many fans will gravitate toward minor league stadiums and be forced to witness the sad, pointless antics of people dressed as lobsters, lumberjacks and pelicans. Suddenly energized by a surge in attendance, these team mascots will cavort wildly in the stands, annoying children, starting fistfights and, in some extreme cases, being set aflame with Bic lighters. We don’t need any of this.

It is our position that a boycott won’t solve anything — you’d just be whacking baseball in the head with a hammer at a time when it should be at home getting plenty of bed rest. If you want to scale back your trips to the ballpark over the course of the year, that’s fine; maybe take in two or three games instead of five or six. And for you South Carolina residents, just keep attending the demolition derby as usual.

We don’t need a boycott — baseball knows that you fans are peeved, believe me. Like most ill-conceived institutions, the Bud Selig regime will not be conquered by invading forces, it will ultimately collapse from within. You know, like the Soviet Union, or the Bee Gees.

So be patient, take the first pitch, and stay focused. Like America itself, the game of baseball was so well-planned by its founding fathers that it can never be permanently damaged. And for BH of Columbia City, sorry, dude. The home runs stay. I would suggest you start watching soccer.

— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com


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