It's way too late in the game to complain about every big sporting event becoming nothing more than a TV show, but does it have to be a bad TV show?
The pre-game introductions for baseball's All-Star Game are inherently dramatic, with the game's best players, introduced one by one, taking their place along the base lines while the crowd boos the home team's rivals and showers the hometown stars with cheers and adoration. Not good enough for NBC, or whichever Major League Baseball official designed the pre-game "festivities" for Tuesday night's All-Star Game in Atlanta.
Gone was the traditional stately jog from the dugout to the base line. Instead the players started out standing on an infield crowded with their families, skittering camera crews and various and sundry other random unworthies, and upon being announced looked like they were picking their way through a bus station at rush hour as they led their toddlers on a wandering path toward home plate, high-fiving two lines of red-T-shirt-clad youngsters no doubt bred specially for the occasion along the way.
Meanwhile, sappy pseudo-inspiring music blasted on the soundtrack (think French horns, lots of French horns), obliterating the sound of the cheering crowd. NBC was kind enough to turn up the crowd mikes when the Atlanta fans cheered Andres Galarraga, the ebullient and beloved Braves first baseman who has returned to All-Star form after missing last season with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. But after a few seconds, the crowd noise suddenly cut out and the public address announcer introduced the next player. No time for a little spontaneous emotion here. Got a show to do.
Also of note as the American League beat the National, 6-3.
Bob Costas: Do you give an All-Star the take sign on 3-and-0?
Joe Morgan: Yes.
Carl Everett: WHIFF!! A huge swing and a miss!
Lighten up, Little Joe, it's an exhibition game. Everett ended up walking in a run.
Although the Braves have dominated the National League for the past 10 years, they've at least had the decency to falter in the postseason, winning the World Series only once. So it was OK to see Jones get his three hits, Andruw Jones drive in a run with a single, Galarraga line a base hit and get a series of standing ovations and Tom Glavine pitch a perfect fifth inning.
NBC has miked Torre, and the cameras pick up the conversation just as Wells seems to be asking if Torre can bend the rules, pinch-hitting for Wells but keeping him in the game. Remember that Wells was furious at Torre and the Yankees two years ago for trading him to the Blue Jays.
Torre: I can't pinch-hit and you go out there and pitch. If you want to go ahead and go up there and hit, that's fine.
Wells: Yeah, I'll go.
Torre: That's fine, I just don't want ... Just go ahead and take three pitches, I don't care. I don't want you to hurt yourself that way.
Wells: All right.
Torre: All right?
Wells: All right.
Torre: Do you want to hit?
Torre: OK, that's fine. [Walking away] He'll hit.
He didn't have to hit. Eighth-place hitter Travis Fryman made the last out.