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Has The All Star Game Seen Better Days?

By Rob Trahan(12,495) Rob Trahan

Posted Thursday, January 24, 2008
View All Blog Posts submitted by Rob Trahan

There are a lot of ways professional sports can be trimmed down and made more bearable. The NFL can do away with the 2-hour halftime during the Super Bowl, "celebrity" interviews during Monday night football games, commercials after every play and punting.

Major League Baseball can do away with endless pitching changes, the designated hitter, performance enhancing drugs (had to throw that one in there) and five-game playoff series.

The NBA could stand to lose hand check fouls, isolation plays and the last 30 seconds of every game taking as long as the first 47:30 (seriously, how many timeouts do teams get now ... 15?)

The NHL needs less Versus, less anynomity and less mullets. A lot less mullets.

The MLS actually needs more of just about everything, especially exposure.

But there's one thing that all of the leagues (with the exception of the MLS, I'll explain later) need to do away with immediately: The all star game. At least in its present form.

Consider this: with the exception of the NFL, all of the all star games are played in the middle of the season. That means players aren't awarded for playing well all season, but for only the first half. And the NFL isn't off the hook on this point either, Pro Bowl ballots are turned in well before the end of the NFL season as well. What does it matter? Here's an example. In 2005, Morgan Ensberg, then with the Houston Astros, was named to the MLb all star game as a replacement for Scott Rolen. Prior to the all star break, Ensberg was hitting .290 with 24 homeruns and 65 RBI. After the break, he only hit another 12 homeruns and 36 RBI and his average dropped. And he's one of countless players who get chosen based on half a season worth of work.

Even if the players were picked based on the entire season, rarely are all of the best players chosen. Fan voting has become popular across professional sports. The average fan votes for his or her favorite, not the best. A perfect example is the record number of votes that Ichiro and Yao Ming continue to get, not because they are deserving (although usually they are), but because they are each the favorite player of an ENTIRE NATION! How can anyone compete? And player and coach voting is little better. Players and coaches don't have enough time to pay close attention to everyone in their league to know who is the absolute best at each position in any given year. It usually comes down to a popularity contest, just like the fan voting.

And the game isn't about the game anyone, it's an "experience." I should know, I've witnessed it first hand. the MLB and NBA games both come with traveling museum/trade show/kid-friendly extravaganza! Don't get me wrong, there's something very cool about seeing how a baseball is made or memorabilia from 50 years ago, but where does the game come in? And everything involves some sort of skills competition from the MBL Home Run Derby (yawn), to the NHL skills contests to NBA dunk contests (snore) and 3-on-3 with WNBA players (yikes!).

If the players don't want to play, why should we want to watch? Often you see players bow out of the all star games with any excuse they can come up with. Even when the games "mean something" as they do in the MLB (the winner gets home field advantage in the World Series, which is one of the dumbest rules in the game), players still choose not to participate.

So what's the solution? Let's assume all star games aren't going anywhere. After all, they are money-making machines for their respective leagues. Here are a couple of suggestions. First, choose teams as close to the end of the season as possible. And have someone knowledgeable who pays attention to the league regularly decide who is deserving, like sportswriters or statisticians. Once the teams are decided, do as much as you can to give the players incentive to play. Throw money at them if you need to (how about a $25,000 bonus if you make the team and $50,000 if you win the game?). But don't make it affect the regular season. It is an exhibition, after all.

Finally, give the fans a reason to watch it again. This is why I like what the MLS does. The MLS All Star game pits the best of the league with a well known club team from Europe. Last year it was Celtic, a couple of years ago it was Chelsea. How about the MLB all stars play the Japanese all stars? Granted, this won't work across all sports. Who would the NFL all stars play? The Arena League? Please!

All star games are unavoidable. The least we can do is make them worth the time of the players and the fans.

This Blog Post has been read 176 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Thursday, January 24, 2008
View other posts by Rob Trahan

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