Saying we can't do without is garbage

August 12, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

Far too much artificial anguish and pseudo-pain is being created over the major-league baseball players walking off the job, which is the inalienable right of every employee -- be he or she an athlete, berry picker, hod-carrier, oyster shucker or sportswriter. Let it be said, loud and clear, it requires only a thimble of intellect to perform in any or all of those occupations -- present company included.

If the players want to shut down baseball and take off for the rest of the summer, they have such a prerogative. It's their game. But, it's a personal belief that a strike of the country's garbage collectors would be far more devastating than players not playing.

It must be emphasized that the fans, after previous work stoppages, had it in their ticket-buying power to bring an end to such nonsense but played it all wrong.

They became paranoid over ballparks being dark and some media softheads, both print and electronic, started crying en masse in the press box -- to such an extent that the games would have been called because of "wet grounds." The tearful reaction has started up again.

Don't deal in self-deceit. The players are a collection of highly-paid migrant workers, coming from other places, playing for themselves and not the cities they represent.

In fact, some owners, including Peter Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles, care so little about the "old home team" they refuse to put the name of the cities that are supporting them on the shirts of their uniforms. Yet those same municipalities pay for multimillion-dollar ballparks, where the owners get the chance to enhance their profits.

So forget the owners, players and, yes, even the fans who are crying "foul." The public doesn't owe the players and owners the time of day and should expect nothing in return. Because the baseball-going public is naive about professional sports, it has distorted the importance and made the games out to be something more than just another silly exercise.

Far too many professional athletes are, in reality, overgrown children, playing in a sandbox. Baseball, football, basketball and the other commercial enterprises trading under the guise of sports do nothing to improve your life. If only the fans realized the anger and disdain so many of the players hold for them, they would be in a state of shock.

The fans also don't want to face reality, which is why baseball has again been silenced by the work force and the owners who lack passion for a game.

The fans, like it or not, get taken for a proverbial ride. They deserve respect because they are cash customers, but in truth allowed the players and owners to become their problem. If the fans would have stayed away from games after the first strike in 1972, a message would have been delivered. They would not have dared repeat the action.

What about garbage collectors? If they elected to shut down in Baltimore, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and other places on the major-league map, it would represent a crisis far more serious to the citizenry than not playing baseball. Imagine decaying food scraps piling up in every neighborhood and the health problems such a situation would create.

Right there you have the reason why picking up garbage and trucking it to dumps or incinerators is far more important than having the baseball players go on strike.

Much is made of part-time ticket takers, ushers and concession employees being hurt by the players not wanting to play. Yet it's not as vital to everyday living as what has been portrayed, regardless of the hue and cry. If you allow a baseball stoppage to trouble you, then you're dealing in fantasy.

We've been fond of saying "baseball is the finest game God ever gave man the opportunity to invent." We hold to the conviction -- regardless of what the players and owners do to it.

But keep it all in perspective. The garbage collector is more important than any baseball player, on strike or not, that you might care to name.

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