This year’s MLB All-Star Game wasn’t thrilling to say the least. The American League might as well have not even showed up because other than Jim Johnson’s 1-2-3 inning in the eighth, there wasn’t much appeal to me. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters didn’t make much of an impact on the game either as it was just a National League show as they stomped the American League 8-0. Yes, the game is cool in that it actually means something. However, do the players really care about home-field advantage in the playoffs?
Baseball’s game seems to be the only one that actually gives the players an incentive to play. The NFL’s Pro Bowl is a game of two-hand touch. The NBA All-Star Game features no defense. The NHL All-Star Game has no hitting, checking, fighting and the score ends up ridiculously high. None of the games have the passion and drive that these pros exhibit during the regular season and playoffs and something has to be done.
Honestly, I don’t think any incentives can be given to the players these days across any of the major sports. Each sport is too much of a business and the players are so obligated to their contracts that even playing in the Olympics is starting to become less and less meaningful. Players see an all-star game nowadays as another opportunity to get hurt, rather than putting a show on for the fans. Yes, fans love seeing offense in these games, but what about the other side of the coin? Baltimore Ravens fans get to watch Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis let up on running backs and quarterbacks as they are about to put them into next week. Justin Verlander gave up five runs in the first inning of Tuesday’s game and thought nothing of it. Long gone are the days of Jeremy Roenick leveling a player with his head looking down at the puck or ice. The games just aren’t exciting, so why watch?
Leading up to the games are skills competitions for each respective sport. Football and hockey have skills competitions, basketball has the slam dunk contest and three-point contest and baseball has the Home Run Derby. These are why we bring the all-stars together. These competitions show just how talented the best players in their respective leagues are at a particular craft. I’d rather watch Prince Fielder hit a 478 foot-bomb, Calvin Johnson snagging balls off a jug machine, Blake Griffin dunking over a car (even though it was a Kia) and Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber shooting hockey pucks over 110 mph. I watch the festivities to be wowed, the games just don’t feature the same intensity. The players want to showcase their specialties and abilities in competitions, not “organized” games with an assortment of stud athletes. It’s hard for the players to gel together when they each have their own distinct playing styles. They don’t have weeks of training camp to prepare and play a quality game for the fans. They get voted in and people expect a masterpiece.
I’d prefer to have the major sports just create lists of the all-stars and keep the festivities and competitions, but no more games. The competitions feature more intensity, creativity and fun than any of the all-star games put out. Incentives are not the answer. Players are too obligated to their teams nowadays that unless the winners of the games received significant bonuses, they won’t play at 100% effort. Get rid of the games, still have all-stars and add more/keep the skills competitions so that way, the players have more rest from not playing a game and everyone wins.
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