All-Star contests need to get serious or give it up

by Dave Wiggins

The recent MLB All-Star Game was — as usual — hard fought and exciting.

In a word, it was terrific.

In other words, it was everything the NFL, NBA and NHL All-Star contests are not.

After viewing the latter three luminary affairs earlier this year, MAS feels everyone — fans, players and honchos — might be best served by just doing away with them.

All increasingly perform a huge disservice to their respective leagues.

The Pro Bowl, NBA and NHL All-Star games have become competitive travesties — farces all.

Instead of showcasing the best talent and highest skill level in their sports they have evolved into slickly-packaged but overhyped pseudo-athletic activities, more glitzy than gutsy.

Only the MLB’s Midsummer Classic has retained its competitive nature and is worth viewing — though its traditional essence has been horribly compromised (more on this later).

How bad have the other three become?

Let’s start with the Pro Bowl.

It’s gradual decline became a free fall this year.

Over the last decade, it had disintegrated into a disgraceful brand of rough-touch football — even the laid-back fans in Hawaii rained boos down on the pathetic product it had become.

Then last season, the NFL inexplicably turned away from its usual AFC-NFC format and went instead with a ludicrous playground-like, choose-up-sides type of deal.

League mucky-mucks allowed two former stars — who had no business being involved — Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice to do the choosing.

Players were picked one-by-one, irrespective of conference.

Sanders and Rice proceeded to make a mockery out of the already ill-advised selection process.

Subjecting the Pro Bowlers to the televised antics of these two spotlight-addicted knuckleheads was truly unforgivable.

Many an outstanding talent had to cool his heels in “the blue room” for a lengthy period before finally being one of the last players picked — much like the unathletic kid always placed in right field in schoolyard baseball.

Many were all-pros and clearly — and rightfully — incensed at such insulting and demeaning mistreatment.

How would you like to have had the outstanding season Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson enjoyed and then be one of the last to go off the selection board?

MAS is sure that next year more than one player will tell NFL commissioner Roger Goodell what he can do with his Pro Bowl.

The resultant game was — predictably — a half-hearted, disorganized mess.

OK, time to trash the NBA All-Star Game now, where the participants all look like matadors-in-training.

Outside of Spain and Mexico, have you ever seen such brilliant ole moves as those exhibited by the players on “defense” in allowing foes free passage to the basket?

With scores now approaching 100 at halftime as a result, maybe it’s time for new NBA commish Adam Silver to show some guts in dealing with something other than a slam dunk situation involving an owner teetering on dementia.

Perhaps Silver should bull that neck sticking out of his over-sized 13-inch collar and order his minions to actually try and get between the man they are supposedly guarding and the basket.

And let them know it’s OK to, you know, bump into someone while gathering in a rebound.

That brings us to every goaltenders worst nightmare — the NHL All-Star Game.

Thanks to the unwritten no-checking rule giving players carte blanche to move freely about the rink, each side now routinely scores in double digits and shots-on-goal must be approaching three figures.

I mean, why do the front five players even wear pads?

Never thought MAS would say this of an ice hockey player but, come All-Star clashes they all turn into real wusses.

The only manly men on the ice become the goalies. Go figure.

Old school — and sharply dressed — Canadian TV legend Don Cherry must be hot under his trademark “high-boy” collar to see all the pussy-footing going on.

Now, on to the only sport in which the luminary action resembles the real deal — big league baseball.

And its current inherent flaw, alluded to earlier.

Last decade, when the MLB All-Star clash had deteriorated slightly into a “don’t get any pitchers hurt” and “get everybody into the game” situation resulting in an “Oops, we’re tied in the 10th inning and out of hurlers, let’s call it a night” predicament, big changes came, warranted or not.

Commissioner Bud finally showed spuds — if not wisdom.

Selig turned a challenging-but-fun exhibition into a deadly serious confrontation with very important — and unnecessary — ramifications.

The commish gave home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the All-Star Game, thus ruining the feel to MLB’s once charming yet hard-fought affair.

Historically, All-Star contests had their origins when games were not widely televised.

Thus, they presented fans a rare opportunity to see all the best on field/court/ice — players that, at the time, they could only read about in the newspapers or maybe follow on the radio.

Today, in every pro sport there are a multitude of games televised daily.

So, are the half-hearted NFL, NBA and NHL exhibitions currently on display really desirable at this point?

All-Star games, theoretically anyway, are supposed to be for the fans. But at which point are the fans being cheated by the lack of effort put forth in them.

MAS feels the only one still serving its true purpose is the MLB variety — but it needs to go back to its original format, with nothing but professional pride on the line.

Let home field advantage in the World Series be decided, as it is in every other sport, by best overall win-loss record.

MAS recognizes the changing economic climate in the sports world and its role in the decline of the All-Star Game.

In many cases, especially with the tawdry trio, a player’s pride in participation has been replaced, or least overshadowed, by fear of injury.

And, really, with the huge sums at stake, who can blame them for this approach.

So, given player economics, the overload of televised games and in light of the jokes they have become, are the sham three worth saving?

MAS says yes — some traditions are never outdated.

But only if conducted the right way — which is clearly not the case presently.

Regardless of what an NFL, NBA and NHL All-Star scoreboard now says at game’s end, there are no REAL winners — anyway you look at it.

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