Thursday, January 10, 2008

It is known as the Great American Pastime, the All-American Sport, the Breakfast of Champions. But is Major League Baseball a harmless athletic competition—or a front, a hideous ruse designed to lure healthy young men into the sordid world of male prostitution?

The game begins innocently enough, or so it seems—a backyard game, involving a ball and a glove. A young boy’s giggle resounds in the summer night. It seems all in good fun. But it will not be long before that boy learns the language of the San Francisco alleyway—the “pitcher,” the “catcher,” the “balls.”

Once a boy is hooked, the “Little League” takes over, funneling promising children into co-ed “teams” of “players” whose actions are dictated by an all-powerful “coach.” Boys and girls alike are taught how to stand, how to throw, how to run. But as the lessons progress, they learn more; much more. They now understand how to “swing” and “grip the shaft.” They can describe a “pop fly,” a “home run” or a “line drive” in graphic detail. They can even tell “foul balls” from “fast balls.”

While these “innocent” years are passing, Major League Baseball, the evil puppetmaster, bides its time, lurking behind the scenes, watching and waiting. It encourages boys and girls alike to participate while the stakes are low, games are aired on public access television if at all, and sponsorship revenue is barely sufficient to pay for uniforms.

But as the players prepare to enter the profitable minor leagues, the industry springs its most insidious trap. It removes female players from the picture altogether, declaring their appealing curves and moist, wholesome pinkness “off limits” to professional competition. Abruptly deprived of female companionship, a randy young athlete may find his hormone-driven attention drawn to his showering locker-mate’s firm, muscular bottom. He may seek solace in the manly arms of his coach, or his assistant coach, or his assistant coach’s assistant. Conditioned by years of training to give “110%” to the “team,” he will now give everything he has to the erotic pleasure of his fellow males.

If he succeeds in “scoring” for his team, he may be promoted to the major leagues. At this point, he is lost. These “pro ball players” (as they are known even amongst themselves) become helpless in the grip of M.L.B. They “warm up” in the “bullpen,” they “slide into home,” they “go down swinging.” Many may be observed scratching themselves and spitting obsessively in full public view, trying to rid themselves of sensations and tastes that will never go away.

The entire industry is “watching” “the game,” and is none too circumspect about it. Radio and television announcers may classify a player as “new trade”; camera operators may show a player’s ostensible girlfriend in the stands, while in the same breath announcers knowingly compliment him on his “beard.” Even the concession operators loudly hawk “hot dogs” and “wieners,” subliminally reinforcing the behavioral code to which all players must subscribe.

The “signing” is perhaps the most visible long-term consequence of MLB culture. It is the final stop on this hellish road for many aging players, who are forced to participate long after their supposed retirements. Here, the men lean against walls or sit at small tables, doing things with their hands for as little as $5. They work for hours at a time in horribly crowded and unsanitary environments, and on their infrequent “breaks” they are required to expose themselves in the men’s bathroom, standing in line with their genitals on display, dangling over the urinals for all to see and comment upon. They are given a cup of lukewarm soda or stale beer, just enough to prevent complete dehydration, and sent back to slave over yet more “autographs,” as they are euphemistically known in the trade. It is sad to see small children and the mentally challenged standing in line, uncomprehending, many clutching treasured baseballs or photographs of their fallen idols.

Review the evidence, Mr. and Mrs. America, and you may reach only one logical conclusion—there is no longer any excuse for Major League Baseball. Let us work together to wipe it off the face of American youth!

Defame This. Y.P.R. extends a great big bucket of mazel tov to Mr. Mark Grahahm (the once-and-always Uncle Grambo), now defaming Hollywood alongside Mr. Mark Lisanti (the erstwhile Bunsen).
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