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Mike Trout is the 29-year-old future Hall of Fame center fielder of the Los Angeles Angels. As a 3-time MVP, he has arguably been the best player in the MLB since his 2012 rookie season, and just at the age of 20. Although only one month into the 2021 season, Trout is playing his best baseball ever slashing .407/.514/.779.
The sports world that exists in 2021 does not deserve Michael Nelson Trout.
Like a lot of kids, I grew up loving sports. I played football and baseball every year I could, including some summer travel ball. My father was a football fanatic and I some of my earliest sports memories are of the “Greatest Show On Turf”. My Grandpa ran an “NFL Football Pot” where the family made and submitted their picks each week for a chance to win money. I remember seeing Mark McGwire hit a home run during my first ever trip to Busch Stadium. I collected baseball cards and devoured stats. Baseball Tonight was mandatory viewing. Even through college, I was still listening to ESPN Radio almost non-stop.
Then something happened: I stopped caring. I mean, I want to care again, but I struggle to find the passion I used to have. There were signs early on. First, the leagues began to tear themselves apart. Being a biased Missourian, I found it shameful the way the NFL treated the city of St. Louis during the Rams’ departure. The watering down of the rules in the NFL to NBA’ify the game made it harder and harder to watch. The MLB’s push to “improve the pace of play” or “make the game more exciting” only pissed off traditional fans like myself while adding none. Do we really think the product quality coming out of both leagues is better than it was 10 years ago? What about 20 years ago? The cowardliness of the owners and commissioners to stand up to the mobs and players alike led to even further degradation (see team name changes because of “100 plus-year-old cultural insensitivities”).
The programming started to change too. The national media began focusing more and more attention to basketball while baseball (my true love) began to fall to the wayside. Every year or two, the dreadful sport of Soccer is continuously shoved in our face despite America’s year after year rejection of it. Even stories from the NFL became more and more narrowly focused. ESPN turned into People Magazine, but sports. Instead of the games, the stories became more about the scandals, drama, and even worse: the politics.
Contrary to popular belief, there has and will always be politics in sports. I’m wary to be one of those “get the politics out of sports!” people because that’s not possible. What should be possible though is for owners and the leagues to stand up to the mobs and the players. They need to draw a line in the sand instead of letting politics infiltrate every facet of the games.
Part of the problem is that the democratization of our society has bled into our sports and the leagues have been more than happy to let it happen. The easy answer to tough questions is to always do what’s popular, but we know what’s popular isn’t always right. Not long ago, NBA Commissioner David Stern fined a player for violating a league rule that mandated players stand for the National Anthem. Right or wrong, name a commissioner that has the guts to do that today? Is there anybody in their respective league willing to buck their marketing and media departments and put an end to the constant deluge of virtue signaling and moral scolding coming out of their broadcasts? With social media, individual players can acquire levels of power that past player unions could never have dreamed of. Who works for who now?
We’re such a rich and big country, everybody can make enough money without having to appeal to “all sides”. The games play second fiddle to the other concerns. Michael Jordan’s (possibly apocryphal) notion that “Republicans buy sneakers too” seems anathema to our modern Sports Industrial Complex. To me, all this makes for a pretty crummy experience.
I admire Mike Trout. I couldn’t tell you one thing about his politics. Because of that, I doubt very many non-baseball fans can tell you much about him; all I can tell you is he’s really good at playing the game I love.
He deserves better.Published in