Like most people, I despise major league sports. Not the games themselves, but the hateful infrastructure that surrounds them. The athletes are overpaid, the tickets are too expensive, a beer costs you 9 bucks, and you can’t even stream a ballgame without paying extra (Why? It’s free on the radio, but since US phones don’t have fm tuners, you have to bring a radio along on your bike ride, or else pay to get it on your phone). Big time sports used to be designed to amuse fans; now, there seems to be a premeditated desire to irritate us. Every NFL kickoff gets a sponsorship, with a border around your TV screen to remind you to buy something you don’t need.
Baseball, in particular, deserves special attention for the way it allows advertisements to encroach upon the game itself. Sponsorship used to be limited to print advertisements on the fences and commercials between innings, but now we have to suffer through a different sponsorship for just about every pitch. Each time a player successfully steals a base during a Red Sox game, Joe Castiglione says, “Safe at Second, Safe and Secure, New York Life” or some nonsense like this. Don’t be surprised if we start hearing about adjustable rate mortgages every time Dustin Pedroia adjusts his batting gloves (often).
But of course, hating the big money and relentless advertisements of MLB doesn’t mean that baseball itself has ceased to be a great game, and, like a good dad, I’ve been exposing my kids to the sport by bringing them along to games whenever I can. My seven year old son has embraced baseball and is even starting to pay attention to stats. This year, he’s discovered all-star balloting, which allows him to use player statistics to vote for guys he believes deserve to be in the all-star game. Except, wait, MLB won’t let him vote.
Having brought a few ballots home from a game, my son spent several hours filling them out carefully, then asked me to bring them to the ballpark and put them in ballot boxes. Unfortunately, I forgot the ballots when I went to a game on July 2nd, two days before the balloting ended. No matter, I told him: let’s sit down, son, and put your votes in online. We did this, but when we clicked the “submit ballot” button, we were required to enter more information, including his e-mail address (he’s 7, so I used one reserved for my wife and me) and his birthdate. Once we put this information in, the above message popped up (in case it's not clear, the message says "You are ineligible to vote").
I’ve been trying, ever since, to learn about MLB’s voting rules by Googling “official MLB All-star Balloting Rules,” but I keep getting referred to the official ballot, and when I click on the link to learn about the rules, the message about my son’s ineligibility to vote pops up. (I know I know: clear the cache). The reason he can’t vote, of course, is that the ballot is sponsored by “Free Credit Score.Com” (or is it Firestone, the “official tire of Major League Baseball”?). Either way, because voting enters him in contests (which we don’t care to be entered in), he must be 18 years old to vote. At least that what I figure the problem is.
I’ve heard that MLB has a youth problem on its hands: fewer kids play baseball, and fewer watch it. This spells trouble down the road, as old guys like me start to die off. Maybe the league ought to design a simple, unsponsored ballot with kids in mind if they wish to reverse that trend. (Likelihood of this: nil).
Next Up: Ten Reasons to Hate Google.