B Y T O M D A N E H Y
"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
--Physicist Robert Oppenheimer, quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita, after the Trinity atomic blast
"I am become Tom, the dispeller of myths."
--Me, right now
MYTH: The baseball fans are really showing the baseball players and owners who's boss by staying away from the ballparks.
REALITY: Attendance is only down 17 percent from last year (early TV ratings are down around 10 percent), and at some ballparks, it's even up from last year (including a whopping 34 percent increase at Shea Stadium for the sorry Mets). Furthermore, some of the decrease can be traced to the fact that the Colorado Rockies are playing in a much smaller new stadium this year.
Some fans are staying away in protest and/or disgust, and good for them. The rest are behaving like the sheep that the players and owners counted on their being.
It's like if your spouse took your money, badly mistreated you, then disappeared for six months. Upon his/her return, you decide to show them what's what by stating that you're only going to engage in marital relations 83 percent as often as you did before the misdeed. Yeah, that'll show 'em.
The ballparks should've been empty, completely, on opening day. A one-day show of force would have sufficed. Instead, some people stayed away, most didn't and the players and owners will just shrug it off.
MYTH: I hate baseball.
REALITY: I don't know where this comes from. The other night I was coaching first base at my daughter's Bobby Sox game and some guy yelled at me, "Why are you out there? You hate baseball."
That needs to be clarified. First of all, softball ain't baseball. Second of all, I don't hate baseball. I hate what major-league baseball has become. I also hate college baseball. And some high school baseball. And a lot of Little League parents. And mostly I hate Bob Costas, Kevin Costner, George Will and all of the others who try to find God or America in baseball.
But I don't hate the game itself. Heck, I'd rather play a game of baseball than have extensive dental work done on me without the benefit of anaesthesia.
That should dispel that myth.
MYTH: NBA basketball, with its most exciting playoff matchups in recent memory, rules the cable airwaves.
REALITY: The NBA is averaging around a 2.6 rating this playoff season, up nearly 20 percent from last year. But a NASCAR auto race on ESPN a couple weeks back drew a 5.2 rating, double that of the NBA.
That is not to say that the NBA isn't drawing sponsors in record numbers. The demographics are really attractive. Meanwhile, it doesn't really matter how many people watch NASCAR. There's just so much light beer and chewing tobacco that the market can absorb.
MYTH: The average auto-racing fan bought his TV with residuals he earned as a cast member in Deliverance.
REALITY: I know a guy named Bill Ray who loves all that auto stuff, and not only does he have all of his own teeth, he swears that he wasn't related to his wife before they got married.
MYTH: Everybody in Phoenix is a jerk.
REALITY: Not everybody. During the first round of the playoffs, several Phoenix Suns season-ticket holders donated their tickets so that a crew of Phoenix firefighters who had been working in the rescue effort in Oklahoma City could attend the game with their families.
I'm generally pretty cynical, but I found that to be genuinely moving.
But don't expect a repeat if the Suns reach the Finals. There's generosity and then there is insanity.
MYTH: The Seattle SuperSonics are the biggest chokes of all time.
REALITY: That's really unfair to the Sonics. In order to be a choke, you must first have had a reasonable chance at winning. And in order to win, you have to have at least a little bit of heart. They have neither heart nor a chance of winning, therefore they can't choke. They just follow their nature.
Of course, some credit must go to the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a sweet collection of young players who just may muscle their way into the league's elite in the very near future.
Meanwhile, watch for the Sonics to be dismantled by management. Not that management will need help. The Sonics come apart all on their own.
I hope Coach George Karl ends up someplace where his talent and hard work will be rewarded by his having players who will play hard and keep their heads out of their rear ends.
One question: What would happen if the Sonics played the UA in the first round of the playoffs?
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