by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

SEATTLE — You want an Opening Day? Take your kids to the park, pitch them a few balls, cook some hot dogs and go home. Trust me, that’s all we have left of the spirit of this thing.

Smiling? Who’s smiling this morning? Just because a court injunction has sent the game back to work? Just because the major leaguers will soon be in Florida and Arizona, doing in April what they should have done in February? Big deal. Nothing has been solved. Nothing has changed. They are still disgraceful, both sides, without shame. Unworthy of our cheers. Undeserving of a smile.

All is not forgiven.

“The game is back. We’re excited about that,” said acting commissioner Bud Selig.

Give me a break.

For 7 1/2 months, players and owners have dragged us through their mud pit of accusations, delays, finger-pointing and redundant press conferences. When we wanted to watch baseball, all we got was men in suits walking through hotel lobbies. They canceled the Sunday afternoons, they canceled the Friday nights, they canceled the most precious tradition, the World Series, because each side was too stubborn to come down off its mountain of dollars.

They fought all winter, and when the snow melted, players stayed away, and so owners threw a bunch of hacks and wanna-bes into major league uniforms and said: “Believe us, we are starting over, these guys are real, buy your tickets.”

Then, at one minute to midnight Saturday, before they’d actually have to pay these palookas any real money, they told them to go home, threw them on the junk heap, where they’ve already tossed the fans’ hearts.

“I’d like to thank the replacement players who interrupted their lives to help out,” Selig said — with a straight face.

They have no shame, these guys. It’s amazing.

Do they have an agreement? No. Will they be in court on Tuesday? Yes. Can they promise us anything will be different this year? No.

And we’re supposed to be happy?

Take a hike.

All is not forgiven. Total accomplished: Zero

Because all is not fixed. It would be one thing if, after all this nonsense, they’d hammered out a deal, something that would lock away any more disputes for at least a decade. But they have nothing of the kind. They have no deal. They have accomplished zip. If not for that injunction Friday, they’d still be at each other’s throats. As of Sunday, the two sides didn’t even have

an agreement that the players would not strike.

“The major league clubs are deeply committed to finding a long-term solution to the game’s economic problems, and remain united in the pursuit of that goal,” Selig said. “We hope that the 1995 season, including all postseason competition, will be played without interruption.”

You hope? Didn’t you hope last October? What was 1994 all about, if everyone can just go back to work and hope again? Why was the Series canceled? Why were all those accusations made? Why did owners hold their throats like men in the desert dying of thirst, claiming one more day under the current system would kill them, you might as well let the buzzards eat them alive?

And now they’re back? With no new contract? These clubs that said it was cheaper to close down than to operate?

And these players, who claim to love the game? Ha. All they want is things as they were, escalating salaries that make four tickets to the ballpark the same as buying a large household appliance. Sure, they’ll go back. They can always strike again –meanwhile, they get paid.

How stupid do they think we are?

Nothing has changed. We still have rich owners crying bankruptcy and players riding around in limousines — their own limousines — saying we want more, this is not enough.

We still have the oily Donald Fehr claiming there is no justice for his misunderstood players, and the blubbering Selig claiming the economics won’t work. Who are these men? How did they take over a game that once thumped proudly with the memories of Ruth, DiMaggio, Williams, Mays?

Who are these men?

What do they have to do with baseball — real baseball? Boycott is the only way

Nothing. And so their declaration that “all is well” means nothing. These are not men who can be trusted. They have toyed with an important part of the American fabric and left it in threads.

If we had any sense, we would boycott this return, ignore their game, stay away from it as long as they kept it away from us. It may be foolish to think
— after all, Americans want their recreation — but really, that’s what we should do.

Because how many times are we expected to go through this? This is not the first time Opening Day has been pushed back by a labor problem; it is the third time. And I’ve lost count of how many labor disputes hang around, rotting, the sides swearing it’s hopeless, until the 11 1/2th hour, then suddenly, everybody springs to life and puts together a patchwork solution.

“Is this an end to the embarrassment?” someone asked Selig on Sunday night.

“Umm . . . ” he began.

There’s a quote for you.

Enough. All is not forgiven. Baseball owes us more than a Band-Aid. Today was to be Opening Day, a great day. Instead, we get a trip back in time, to last summer, the same old problems. We are numb, patients in a dentist’s chair, we shut our eyes and hope the gas takes us away.

It’s a joke.

And it’s not very funny.

All is not forgiven.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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