Tonight Major League Baseball holds their 84th Midsummer Classic, the All Star Game. Being the sports fan that I am, I thought I would share with you my ranking of the All-Star games in the various major sports, telling you my thoughts on each.
Number 5 – The Pro Bowl. I would have ranked it lower, but I am only ranking 5 sports. This is an unwatchable event. In the past it was put on the week after the Super Bowl in Hawaii. More recently, in an attempt to make it more relevant, it was moved to the week before the Super Bowl.
Where to begin on why this game is a debacle? I guess I will start with the players. By placing it the week before the Super Bowl it ensures that the players from the two most important teams cannot participate, eliminating some of the most compelling players in the league.
The game itself is terrible. Why they use pads is beyond me, because it ends up looking more like a flag football game. Virtually no defense is played, so half of the best players in the league don’t get to showcase their skills.
My personal opinion is that this one just needs to go.
Number 4 – The NHL All Star Game. Another game with no defense. Basically they skate up and down the ice and assault the goalies with pucks. Recent scores have been 12-9 (2012), 11-10 (2011), and 8-7 (2008). That averages to 9.5 goals per game. The NHL average for regular season games has been between 4.5 and 6 since the early 1990s.
To make matters worse, they don’t even have a natural way to divide the teams. Sometimes it is East vs. West, sometimes North America vs. The World. Recently they have put the names of players onto the team names.
This season the game was cancelled due to the lock out. There will not be a game in 2014 due to the Olympics. So, the good news is that this debacle won’t happen again until 2015 (unless there is another lock out, of course).
Number 3 – The NBA All Star Game. This offense-laden game is better than the NHL and NFL, but not much. It plays more like a pick-up game at a gym where no one wants to get hurt, than a clash of Professional Athletes.
Years ago at least the Slam Dunk competition was interesting. But that has run its course as well.
Number 2 – The NASCAR All Star Race. Held in the middle of the season, this non-points race can be very exciting. The format is tweaked from the normal, weekly races. There are rules to put certain drivers in the main event. Then there are chances for other drivers to race their way in through qualifying heats. The main event is divided into segments to make the racing more interesting. It is always held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, so that can be a drawback (wouldn’t it be interesting to see it move around and be at places like Bristol, or Talledega?).
The racing is hard, and there is certainly hard defense. The purse for the race is large enough to make it compelling to the drivers and crews as well. Now, there have been snooze-fest races in the series, and one criticism I have is that they seem to change the format yearly. But, compared to the 3 above, this one is head and shoulders better.
Number 1 – The MLB All-Star Game. This was the one that started them all. I am not a fan of the concept of tying the home field advantage to the outcome, but that does make the teams try very hard to win.
In the early days of the game, there was no inter league play, there were no playoffs. At the end of the regular season, the two teams with the best record from their respective league met in the World Series. Even with the addition of the playoff system, it was usually only at the All Star game that you could see your favorite players go up against players in the other league. There was a strong American vs. National league identity. With Inter League play, that has lessened, but the game still pits the best of both sides against each other for one fun night.
Because pitchers are usually changed every inning or two, and they are the best pitchers of that year, the scores actually tend to be lower in the All Star game than in the regular season.
As a kid growing up, being a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I would watch the player introductions to see that one member of my favorite team introduced (sometimes the stars aligned and we got two). It was a proud moment if that player got into the game and contributed.
There have been many classic moments in the MLB All Star game including Reggie Jackson’s Home Run in Detroit, Stan Musial’s walk-off home run, Carl Hubbell striking out 5 future hall of famers in succession, and Pete &$*@ Rose colliding with Ray Fosse.
No All Star game is perfect to be sure. But for my money, Baseball’s is the best.