State of the game

With all of the problems of sports in general and baseball in particular -- let alone those of the entire dimly cockeyed, stuck in a ditch, hopelessly atwitter nation for that matter -- you'd think we'd have better things to think about and wrangle over than the decline, fall, creeping banality and, utter irrelevance of a tired old and thoroughly meaningless exhibition game.

But nice things die hard and tradition matters deeply especially, in the realm of baseball where a seamless web of nostalgia has long and lovingly embraced the game from the moment Alexander Cartwright came down from the mountain with the rules and regulations of a new version of "Rounders" graven in stone. It was thereby inevitable that it would be baseball that would produce and annually feature what would become dearly regarded in the national lore and legendry as "the dream game."

Only those few of us who were at the height of our game back in the summer of 1933 can appreciate how that spell was instantly conjured when Arch Ward, a humble Chicago sportswriter, cooked up the idea and it was only intended to be a one-time deal. Ward proposed it simply to serve as a sidebar of Chicago's ambitious "Century of Progress" exhibition, a sort of mini-world's fair being held that summer in defiance of the overwhelming black mood being cast globally as the Great Depression was realizing its abject depths.

Overnight Ward's pipe-dream took off, as one and all also saw in it the potential for a huge boost in the public morale as well as a vehicle for inspiring precious charitable works. When the first "classic" proved a sensation -- with Babe Ruth delivering one of his patented mighty blows to win it for the American League -- the effect was to instantly institutionalize the event making it an annual festival, second in meaning as a national summer occasion only to July 4th itself. Such then was the power and majesty of Baseball in our culture.

But that was then and now is now and much has changed in said culture and so have we. So have the men who play a kid's game for their immense and boundless profit, and if somewhere along the line perspectives have wandered and values have faded it is just the way of things and maybe that's how it should be left, with no hard feelings and no regrets. Only it isn't that simple. It never is.

Actually, the Baseball All-Star game has been losing its magic in dribs and drabs for about 40 years now. You really have to go back to about the '60s to recall it being compelling theatre; by which I mean something that stopped us in our tracks, fired our imagination, and we dared not miss.

In recent years you have had the odd special moment, now and again. That was significantly the case in 1999 at Fenway Park when the baseball world staged a delightfully impromptu farewell to an old and mellow Ted Williams and there was a bit of a reprise nine years later when the big night's special feature was a sentimental wallowing in the impending doom of Yankee Stadium. They were quintessential baseball moments. As the impish Bill Veeck used to delight in observing, baseball has always found a certain charm in necrophilia. Absent such curious and stray garnishes the game on the field has increasingly bombed.

Culminating in this year's abomination in Arizona -- and it was a painfully tedious and lackluster drill -- delivered with neither passion nor purpose as a ridiculous 60 different players paraded in and out of the two lineups, much as they might do batting practice at spring training. Record low TV ratings affirmed what Abe Lincoln so wisely observed, namely that you simply can't fool all the people all the time.

What to do about this weak parody? All the heavyweights in the business are weighing in, with the most profound and succinct advice I think coming from Jim Litke, lead columnist for the Associated Press, who urges, "End it!" And he adds, "Would anyone other than Bud Selig notice? Or care?"

The sitting Czar always makes a fashionable target when complaints about the game are aired and Lord knows this one is especially and richly deserving. Selig is dead-wrong in allowing the outcome of the all-star game to determine who gets home-field advantage in the World Series. That issue is much too important to be decided by what amounts to a whim. It makes a potentially pivotal consideration the hostage of a contrivance. Selig knows he's wrong, but presumably has no way out and lacks the courage to admit it.

Otherwise there isn't much he could have done to prevent the erstwhile ''mid-summer night's dream'' from deteriorating into an embarrassing nightmare. Adverse conditions were fairly cemented well before his watch. The competitive edge players formerly brought to the moment, and that delicious animosity the two leagues once had for one another, eroded long ago. They are all buddies now bonded by an interlocking network of agents who may have more influence than Selig himself. Clearly, the players don't really care, a reality clearly affirmed by this year's rage of no-shows and cop-outs. Interleague play, expansion, and the greatly increased movement of players are other factors at play.

An all-time all-star, old pal Teddie "Ballgame" Williams would be properly appalled. Ever the eccentric, Williams always regarded these gigs as his most important and ranked his memorable heroics in the '41 and '46 classics as his biggest thrills. To some of us, that still seems rather strange, because as important as they once may have seemed to some all-star games were never more than mere exhibitions. Hardly fabled for his aggressive defense, Ted ran into a wall in the 1950 edition, broke his elbow, and missed the next two months as his team with its customary flair for futility chased the Yankees hopelessly, finishing just four games out. If Ted ever questioned the wisdom of his misplaced zeal that summer, it was never recorded.

Face it. Under the stewardship of Selig, the aegis of the Fox Television Network, and the influence of that cult of Big Money that's created the generation of breezy plutocrats who play the game today, the once glorious all-star game has became a big, noisy, vacuous, happy, frat-house party having little meaning and less raison d'etre. I agree with Jim Litke. The time has come. Put the bloody thing out of its misery.

Greatly up-staging the game this year was the silly home run contest the night before. When a weak sideshow that essentially trivializes the game becomes the main attraction, it's time to run up the white flag, Boys. The party is over.

Of course, all the all-star games in all the leagues have lost their value and were it not for network television's acute need to fill vast programming voids with pure junk, they would have become extinct long ago.

None of the all star games work anymore. The NFL's version, never much to brag about even when it involved the gimmick of matching college all-stars against the sitting champion, has been reduced in recent years to a farce; virtually a touch football game of the sort they used to play at the Kennedy Compound. That it has been entirely ignored is altogether fitting. What the NHL now offers -- a dumb three-hour shootout -- is equally embarrassing. Have you no pride, Gary Bettman? There was a day when the NBA made an effort. These days their stellar productions look borrowed from a playground.

It's over. Gone! Done! Exeunt! As Gertie Stein may have noted, there is no more "there", there. Nothing lasts forever. But in baseball alone, once upon a time, these games did have rare meaning. Such a loss is always poignant.

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
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
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
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Nation
Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Nation
Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Local
Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

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 ...

World
Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

World
Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

Nation
'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Local
Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Local
Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

Local
CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Local
Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Nation
Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Nation
Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Nation
Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

World
Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

World
Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

World
After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

Nation
DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

World
Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

Nation
What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

World
'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

World
Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Nation
Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...