I like to argue. You like to argue? Oh come on, you do too. Want to see?
Cal Ripken Jr. doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame.
All right, all right, settle down. I was just testing you. But you see what I mean?
Arguing is one of the best things about sports. Was that pass interference? Would Ali have beaten Louis? Was that a good trade? Is the designated hitter rule a necessity or an abomination? Should college athletes get paid?
But an interesting thing seems to be happening to me. At least interesting to me, and what else matters? Nothing else matters and I don't want to hear any arguments about that.
I find that I've lost interest in a lot of the arguments that have provided hours of fun for me over the years. Twice in a row now, the story that's bubbled to the top of the sports world has been at heart about an argument that's no longer able to get me all het up.
The results of the Baseball Writers Association of America voting on the latter question were released Tuesday, and this year's Hall of Fame class is Ripken and Tony Gwynn, both slam-dunk candidates, no doubters. A big part of the headline, though, is that, as expected, Mark McGwire didn't get in and didn't get close.
Wonky baseball know-it-alls -- that is, the type of person I pretend to be despite falling short in the hyphenated part of that description -- can cobble together an argument that McGwire isn't a legitimate Hall of Famer because he was one-dimensional and didn't have enough really great years, but the fact is that absent allegations that his achievements were fueled by steroids, McGwire would have gotten in with something north of 90 percent of the vote.
He's seventh on the home run list. Hall of Fame voting isn't rocket science for the BBWAA voters. If you're seventh on the home run list, you're in. Other than McGwire, the eligible candidate with the most home runs who isn't in the Hall is Jose Canseco, who is 30th on the all-time list.
So there's been a lot of chatter over whether McGwire's alleged steroid use and his handling or the matter, especially his stonewalling performance before Congress in 2005, should affect his Hall of Fame candidacy. The voters have spoken, and they've resoundingly said yes. McGwire got 23.5 percent of the vote. You need 75 percent.
There are good arguments on both sides. I favor the ones that say look at what happened on the field, that steroids were just part of the context of the day, the same as not having to face black players was part of Babe Ruth's context. But I understand the opposing arguments, which favor discounting results that derived, or may have derived, from illegal drug use.
And I don't care about any of them. I don't care if Mark McGwire gets into the Hall of Fame.
I also don't care -- and I used to really care about this sort of thing -- whether the various borderline guys ever get in. The current crop is Goose Gossage, who got 71.2 percent this year, Jim Rice, for whom the Boston Red Sox have been shilling like mad for several years, Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven.
In case you care more than I do, I think Gossage and Blyleven should get in, but it really wouldn't ruin my day if all of the others did, plus the next few going down the list. Lee Smith, Jack Morris, Tommy John. They could put Jay Buhner in, for all I care. He even got a vote Tuesday.
I can't explain this. I used to be a small-Hall kind of guy. I groused about Robin Yount getting in. Don Sutton? He was rarely, if ever, the best pitcher on his own team! And now he's in the Hall of Fame?
I was just plain wrong about Yount and I came around on Sutton. Maybe it was my getting older, maybe it was the influence of having this job, having a term paper due every day, that taught me to appreciate the value of consistent pretty-goodness over a long, long stretch.
But then, and maybe this has to do with getting older too, I started wondering what I was getting so worked up about. Don Sutton? Sure. Jack Morris? Whatever floats your boat. Heck, Mark Fidrych. Bo Belinsky.
The Hall of Fame is a fantastic museum, a Mecca, a place every baseball fan should visit. Repeatedly, at different stages of life. I visited as a kid and I can't wait to get back to it with the perspective of a grown-up. But one thing I remember distinctly: The most boring room in the building is the one with all the plaques.
It doesn't affect my enjoyment of the game or its history if players I don't approve of are enshrined, or if players I think should be in -- Ron Santo! -- are out. And it won't affect my enjoyment of the museum next time I visit, nor my appreciation for the Hall as a research institution.
It's not that I think Hall of Fame arguments are silly or a waste of time. I don't begrudge anybody their enjoyment. Maybe I'm just tired of them for the same reason I've grown tired of the football national champion arguments. They come around every year, and the same points get made every time. The positions ossify into religious convictions, and the two sides just end up shouting at each other.
Instead of listening to me, which they should be doing.
A few other arguments I've gleefully participated in that now leave me cold:
I still like to argue as much as ever. I've just pruned my list of subjects is all. Maybe now I'll have room for new subjects. You should prune too.
Yes you should. You should! What do you mean why? I'll tell you why ...
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