The Major League Baseball All-Star Game took place tonight. If you read much of anything written in anticipation of it, chances are you found lots of snippy comments and dismissals of the mid-season exhibition. The brickbats have been rightfully earned. Players beg off the squad for the smallest of reasons. Most of the elected starters now put in token appearances. Interleague play has tarnished the appeal of match-ups that otherwise weren't seen except for this game or the World Series.
The source of much of the displeasure with the game stems from the 2002 edition, which unceremoniously ended in a tie because both teams had used their full complement of players and the managers didn't want to burden their last pitchers. It was a bad decision that led to a bigger one: making the exhibition "mean something" by staking home field advantage in the World Series on the outcome. Why hinge a crucial postseason advantage on a game that otherwise doesn't count--it never did, other than league bragging rights--and isn't taken seriously by the participants?
I fondly remember watching the All-Star Game on TV when I was a kid. It was one of the rare times to see players from the American League and even some of the other National League teams. Keep in mind that comparatively few games aired then. I don't remember how often the Reds were on in the '80s, but it wasn't anywhere close to the approximately 90% of the schedule that I get now.
So while people gripe about the rule that requires a representative from each team, at least back then it made sense. I wanted to see players from my favorite team out there with guys from all the other clubs. One of my favorite aspects of the game is seeing the field taken by players in all those different uniforms. While they're playing on one of two sides,wearing their regular uniforms turns the showcase on what are theoretically the sport's best (or best that year).
I recall staying up for the end of that fateful 2002 game, although I may very well have fallen asleep before the arrival of the boneheaded decision to call it a tie. (The increasingly later times for first pitch don't make it friendly for kids or adults who work regular business days.) I don't think the All-Star Game has meant as much to me since as it did before then. Once I had joined the working world I still kept up with the game. Now it's become something that I'll watch if I'm home but won't sweat missing if something else is going on. (Tonight's game conflicted with a screening of the final Harry Potter film. Even after I got home, I only half paid attention.)
Some things look better through the lens of nostalgia, and some things were better the way they used to be. When it comes to the All-Star Game, the latter sentiment is the correct one to apply.