News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 16, 2013

TODD GOLDEN: Can't get too caught up in 'what used to be'

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Baseball’s All-Star Game is tonight. There was a time in my life when I would have been really excited about it.

Then again, there was a time in this Milwaukee Brewers’ fans life when I was a strident American League supporter in the Mid-Summer Classic. If today’s me could go back in time 25 years and tell 17-year-old me what league I’d be rooting for in 2013, I’d have died from shock.

My now annual league affiliation confusion aside, I’ll be working tomorrow night and won’t be able to watch the All-Star Game. But even if I had the time, would I devote as much emotional energy to it as I once might have?

I’d be lying if I said yes.

It’s only natural to believe that something isn’t What It Used To Be. I don’t think the All-Star Game is What It Used To Be and I’m not alone.

There’s a lot of things in sports that aren’t What It Used To Be. For me, the Super Bowl doesn’t carry the same mythic status it once did. Neither does the World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals or any number of other signature sporting events.

They’re cool. But am I going to move heaven and earth to make a point to watch them? Not likely.

Why? None of them can compare to What Used To Be.

The What It Used To Be phenomenon, of course, is a product of age. I’m in my early 40s and when you get to that age, you’ve seen a lot (too much?) of What Used To Be.

I looked it up. I’ve watched 35 of the 47 Super Bowls — as I gasp for breath in pure gobsmackedness that I’m that grizzled. I have not only seen Kobe Bryant play in the NBA Finals … I saw his dad play in them too.

As much as I loathe to admit it, I’ve seen a lot. So it’s only natural to compare what you saw when you were young, when it was all shiny and new, and view sporting events through the prism of your life experience and come to the conclusion that something isn’t What It Used To Be.

The trouble with What Used To Be — besides having a cynical endgame — is that it leads you down the treacherous road where you try to justify why something isn’t What It Used To Be. And that’s when we succumb to the tyranny of our own memories that rarely always jive with the facts.

I could offer up all kinds of What Used To Be on the All-Star Game. The phoney-baloney World Series home-field advantage which is “at stake”. Interleague play taking the novelty away. Free agency diluting league loyalty. The All-Star Week that bleeds attention away from the All-Star Game. There’s an old man-yells-at-cloud screed to be had about all of them.

But what’s the point? Again, there’s those pesky facts. Players have always switched leagues — ask Frank Robinson among many others. Determining home-field advantage based on the All-Star Game winner might very well be dumb, but no more random than the old way, which alternated home-field advantage between the leagues bi-annually.

The All-Star Game format and week have always been tweaked with — there was a time in the late 1950s and early 1960s when there were two All-Star Games per season.

But that’s really beside the point. Getting too caught up on What Used To Be takes you away from the essence of what drew people to a sporting event to begin with. Enjoyment.

When you strip away the What Used To Be away from tonight’s All-Star Game, you’re left with something pretty cool. A mid-season convergence of baseball’s best players plying their trade on a national stage for our benefit. Nothing more, nothing less.

Is it meaningless? Well, yeah, viewed through the prism of the pennant races, of course it is.

But, again, that’s over-thinking it. Think back to the first few All-Star Games you watched. There was a wonderment there that hadn’t been eroded away by time. Who cared if it was meaningless? It was pretty awesome to watch Joey Votto face Max Scherzer.

It helps to have kids who are watching these events for the first time. There’s no What Used To Be in them, though its funny and kind of disheartening to think in 25 years there likely will be.

We ruin things with What Used To Be. It’s an example of age not equating to wisdom. Why muck up the works? Enjoy tonight’s game on its still-considerable merits and forget about What Used To be. 

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.