Saturday, March 13, 2010

Balls and Strikes

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it has come to this.

We live in an age when the electorate struggles to keep up with an increasingly complex world, flushing democracy into a perilous vortex of bloated bureaucracy.  The politician and voter alike make decisions based on oversimplified and stereotyped caricatures of complex systems and issues.

Delivering a fair, nuanced, and digestible picture of the world so that our political ideals may survive is the task bestowed upon the news media, a news media which, increasingly, is saying, "the hell with it," and instead obsessing over which members of the Red Sox infield wear cups.

On March 3, barely into Major League Baseball's exhibition season, I clicked open the home page of The Boston Globe to find a prominently-displayed article called "Getting Into a Sensitive Area," by Dan Shaughnessy.

"Cup or no cup?" reads the first line, "That is the question."

Okay. Dan Shaughnessy is a highly-paid, nationally renowned sports columnist. Can he do no better than a trite bastardization of the oldest Shakespeare cliche in human history?

Secondly, why is he being paid so much money to write about baseball players' undergarments?

The article, as it turns out, focuses on the testicular trauma of one Adrian Beltre, Boston's new third baseman. Beltre does not wear a cup, and he paid the price last summer when a ground ball took a bad hop and crushed -- that's right, I said "crushed" -- one of the family jewels.

I know what you're thinking:  If this would happen to John Baldacci a little more often, maybe it wouldn't be such a struggle to get the mainstream media to offer complete coverage of political issues now and then.

Hell, I'd drive to Augusta myself for that.

Anyway, Beltre becomes the second consecutive Red Sox third baseman who has overcome catastrophe in the cajones (Mike Lowell conquered cancer down there several years ago).  Get in touch with the Elias Sports Bureau; that has to be some kind of record.

But the really amazing thing is that Beltre, even after eviscerating his vitals, still does not wear a cup

"I should," he told Shaughnessy, "but it just isn't comfortable."

His stones swelling to the size of a grapefruit, on the other hand, must have felt wonderful.

Now, if you're thinking that this is an issue that should really only concern Mr. Beltre, then you obviously know nothing about baseball or capitalism. Millions of fans have invested time and money into this guy already, hoping he will find a way to resurrect his drooping career and become one of the more potent bats in a lineup that has the potential to be rather anemic.

In other words, if he gets tagged in the testimonials one more time, millions of dollars will have been shriveled away, and the hopes and dreams of an entire region will remain, uh, undescended.

So it's safe to say that no balls will be watched more closely this summer than the ones hit toward Adrian Beltre.

Meanwhile, some dazed and doped-up version of a health care bill plods through Congress, and people who haven't set foot inside a classroom in decades decide how to divide up resources for our kids, based on the latest formula or test scores that are supposed to tell us everything we need to know about education so we don't have to think about what's really going on.

Let's get our priorities in order, folks, so tomorrow's leaders won't have to struggle to save our rights, provide decent opportunities, and remember all those euphemisms they used to know in middle school.

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