Passing sometime on our pastime

On the one hand, the stage seems set for a banner year for major league baseball. The competition for the increasingly tight sports buck is in a shambles with the problems of the NFL skyrocketing and those of the NBA -- which could prove to be even deeper -- about to begin.

But then, epic uncertainties are hardly confined to the fun and games industry. As international turmoil mounts putting the squeeze on the domestic economic recovery with soaring gas prices as the driving (no pun intended) factor it would not be much of a leap to the spectacle of declining gates at America's ball yards. Put it this way; it's an equation that has potential merit.

Meanwhile, down in the winter/spring La La Lands of the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues where the kids are trying to bend over and touch their toes without busting quads or snapping hamstrings, serene indifference reigns quite as usual.

Those who govern baseball have lately proclaimed our times to be the grand old game's "Golden Age." That's heady stuff. They offer facts -- at least of the sort they favor -- to affirm it. Team revenues, player salaries, and prices fans gleefully pay do indeed smash record levels annually; as do owners' profits. In this robust and merry scam everyone wins but the fans. Although you wonder if the suckers, who tend to measure their devotions by the degrees of their sacrifice would have it otherwise; the darn fools.

Others, however, who are not hooked on money as the only meaningful standard of measurement, have doubts. They cite warning signs like ebbing interest in the crucial television dimension. Gate receipts may have held nicely but the TV numbers that define broader appeal in all the enclaves that don't have MLB franchises have not.

Baseball's signature events -- most noticeably its large post-season package which may soon further expand -- are slumping. In the vital ratings game baseball gets clobbered by football, although that could change if football's labor crisis goes bonkers. Gaining on baseball on the outside rail is NASCAR, at least in the Sunbelt and Mid-West which would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Baseball does not thrive on the networks.

Nor does it fare well on the playgrounds either. In rural America where once baseball was a religious rite of summer it is withering away. Minor leagues are reduced to a precious few while the semi-pro, town team, industrial, military, park, and even beer leagues are largely gone. In one's lifetime, the change has been colossal.

Meanwhile the game grows lustily from the Caribbean to the Far East. There's a message there somewhere, although signals coming from the international play which has seen Japan beat America at its own game are deceiving.

Is our beloved national pastime fading, the immensity of the moneys floating on the top of the lusty bubble notwithstanding? Hardly a week goes by without some learned know-it-all emoting weightily on that theme in yet another learned journal.

The learned commissioner, the Honorable Bud Selig, has appointed a committee consisting of 14 sachems and savants from all walks of baseball life to study this transcendental question. Reputedly they will examine -- with the intensity only a 14-member committee can summon -- such vexing matters as the speed of the game. It is much too slow, you know, for these hyped-up, high rolling times. Or so those who never played it and rarely watch it like to say, if only to hear themselves say it.

While at it, the illustrious committee might consider why it is necessary to pay Czar Selig more than $18 million a year to appoint committees to do his job for him. At least that's what the owners were paying him the last time his annual salary was posted a year or so ago. It was $18.35 million per annum, to be precise. It may have swelled a bit since, with cost of living allowances and all that. What you and I would call, "COLAs," chum.

In addition to these lingering Gordian Knots, other issues that might blight the sunshine of a blissful season, plus problems that should be corrected include:

The structure of the post-season. There seemed determination to come to grips with this last fall. But Selig is adept at ducking the tough ones. The inequities of the wild-card system must be addressed. It's long overdue. The most radical proposal would add another wild card in each league requiring Wild Card Elimination rounds which would theoretically leave the winners worn out and appropriately disadvantaged in the next playoff series. Clever, eh? But it would hardly solve the bigger problem of the length of the playoffs which threatens to extend beyond Armistice Day one of these years.

The deficiencies of revenue sharing; -- or the weak sisters' ripoffs: This has nothing to do with the protestations of the game's power mongers out of Boston and New York, etc. although they are well within their rights to beef about the unfairness of the system. Let's face it: allowing Pittsburgh to go on profiting about $35 million every year for the honor of finishing last has become ludicrous.

What to do about the Dodgers and the Mets? Both are monumental embarrassments seemingly unsolvable in the short term. The divorce wars of the swinging McCourt's, those cute kids who with luck might have owned the Red Sox, may make the Dodgers outcasts indefinitely. While the Wilpon Family's consorting with Bernie Madoff may cost them a billion bucks, making a prized franchise the welfare buddy of the Kansas City Royals. Won't the Yankees love having to shovel revenue sharing dough over to the Mets?

The deficiencies of interleague play: Selig's mid-season pride and joy has run out of fans both among those who play the games and those who watch them. The inequities are ridiculous. This summer, the Cubs will have to play the Red Sox, Yankees and their tenacious cross-town rivals the White Sox, while the Cards -- with whom they most contend for a playoff berth -- get the Orioles, Blue Jays and their weak cross-state rivals the Royals. A stray series (like the Red Sox-Cubs) still has charm but overall this cheap gimmick has lost its luster.

What to do about the Rays and the A's? Which is all about the inadequacy of their ballparks, with neither issue having much apparent chance of resolution much to the detriment of both teams. This has led to talk of possibly eliminating both franchises which would be tragic, especially in the case of Tampa which has otherwise become a splendid young franchise. Many believe the Florida Marlins are a candidate for contraction too even if they do have a nice new ballpark. Florida hardly needed two teams.

The Roger Clemens fiasco: It's coming. Daily extensive coverage. To a cable news outlet near you. Soon! In addition to completing the destruction of the erstwhile Rocket, it could be a major league fiasco for the entire game depending on what tactics Roger's off the wall barristers employ in trying to get their boy off the hook, which many believe is a hopeless task. The Clemens mess has already affected the pennant race. For it's doubtless the reason Andy Pettitte, who will be required to testify, chose to quit the Yankees. Maybe now shrill Red Sox Nation will lighten up on poor Rocket.

Labor talks begin to stir: With the beloved Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) soon expiring there will be early and very tentative talks beginning later this spring. This being baseball's "Golden Age" everyone assumes they'll be a frolic. But the issues slowly emerging are loaded.

Wait until the lads tangle with Selig's next brainstorm having to do with the possibility of what's called "geographic realignment," which would contract two teams, create four divisions, and effectively eliminate the American and National Leagues as we have historically known them. How easily do you think that will go down?

One has every confidence Baseball can beat Football, Basketball, or any other bloody game when it comes to producing a nasty, good old-fashioned, genuine labor dispute. It always has!

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...