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America's Favorite Pastime This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   All my life my father has told me about Fenway Park. He must have raved a thousandtimes to my sister and me about the games his father took him to watch when hewas a boy. "They were the best times of my childhood," he'd say, andthen proceed to describe the tingling sensation that ran through his body when heentered the stadium. It would be a hot, sunny day in Boston, and he'd have hismitt in one hand and a hot dog in the other. The smell of cotton candy and beerin the heat would fill the air, bringing a smile to his face. He loved the factthat you could sit in the bleachers at Fenway and still feel like you were rightnext to the ball players. He would list player after player whose baseball cardshe had. He looked up to those players as heroes, and those games were thehighlight of his childhood.

When he takes me to baseball gamesnow, he'll get involved in a bitter conversation with the loud man sitting behindus about how so-and-so is taking muscle mass pills or has asked for yet anotherraise. The feeling of baseball's older fans seems to have shifted from one ofutter veneration to disappointment. What has happened to America's favoritepastime?

When Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle were stars, money was not thebiggest part of the game. It was all about skill. When individual players arepaid millions, money becomes the predominant factor in choosing this as aprofession. Baseball is supposed to be about fun, drive and good sportsmanship,but when you're paid $22 million a year, (which is what Alex Rodriguez earned in2002) love for the game is tainted.

Instead of being honored and humbleabout their good fortune, overpaid athletes get confused about who they are andwhy they play. They no longer want to be seen merely as skilled athletes; nowthey think of themselves as celebrities, and they can get away withit.

The owners have to keep players happy because they keep the moneyrolling in. So when the players ask for more and more ridiculous amounts ofmoney, the owners give in. This cycle permits the players to see themselvesdeserving special treatment. For example, Barry Bonds requested his own sectionof the locker room to separate himself from the more "average" players.This is not to say that Major Leaguers are never satisfied, but the elite playersare the most well-known and powerful in the game, and what they want is what wesee.

They are the "heroes" kids dream about, and thetreatment someone like Barry Bonds receives contributes to his attitude towardhis fans. He makes too much money and is too busy to give autographs to childrengrasping desperately to their idealistic dreams of the ultimate ballplayer. Thathero can no longer exist in the same way.

Baseball players shoulddemonstrate fairness, honesty, sportsmanship, and love of the game. They shouldshow the utmost respect for the game. But because many are confused about whothey are and why they are even playing baseball, they lose sight ofthese.

Steroids are the biggest example of ballplayers"forgetting" to play by the rules. Because they are not tested forsteroid use, many players yield to these drugs. Baseball has become socompetitive because so many (even those who are already large) have resorted tosteroids, making it all the harder to keep up with the pack if you choose not touse steroids. And, of course, there is always the example of accepting money andbribes in return for tampering with a game. Betting against your team orpurposefully affecting the outcome of a game for money is the paramount exampleof a lack of sportsmanship. These acts ruin the spirit of baseball.

It isnot as though baseball ceases to exist as a fun and exciting form ofen-tertainment. In fact, more people attend baseball games today than ever. Buttoday's game, along with many long-lived forms of amusement, has moved forwardwith the times, and along with that has come its downfall. We no longerexperience America's favorite pastime in its purest form. Everyone still enjoys agreat day at the ballpark, but when it comes down to it, it no longer representsmerely sportsmanship, discipline and fairness. The progress of our era has ledbaseball to have a different meaning, and in my opinion, it is just not the same.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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