by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist
New Hampshire defeated Vermont 27-12 in this year’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl All-Star Football Game before a big crowd at Castleton State College. It was N.H.’s 15th straight triumph in the one-sided series and it got me thinking about All-Star games—to include the good, the bad, and the ugly
The first baseball All-Star game took place in 1933—the brainchild of Chicago sportswriter Arch Ward. It pitted the best of the American League against their National League counterparts. It was a resounding success and the Midsummer Classic became part of our annual sports cycle.
Ted Williams always claimed his favorite baseball memory was hitting that three-run ninth inning home run in the 1941 All-Star Game in Detroit to lead the A.L. to a 7-5 win.
Fan balloting determined the starters for the All-Star game until 1957, when Cincinnati Reds fans stuffed the ballot boxes and almost succeeded in fielding seven Reds. Major League Baseball subsequently let the players select the starters until the fans were given a second chance in 1969.
Earlier this year it looked like Kansas City Royal fans might succeed in selecting eight Royal starters but eventually common sense prevailed. Still, the game had record low television ratings, prompting concerns about the Midsummer Classic’s future.
Part of the reason for the demise of the All-Star Game has been inter-league play. A.L. vs. N.L. is just not as special anymore. So in an attempt to make the game more meaningful, MLB decreed that World Series home field advantage would be at stake during the Midsummer Classic. This was a cool idea and a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to save the game.
Fan ballot stuffing remains a problem, threatening the integrity of the game. So here’s a solution. Create a voting formula where the players vote for their peers, with those results counting for 50%, the same percentage that fan voting would account for. That way everyone is invested.
Further, fans should pay $5 for the privilege of casting one electronic ballot per e-mail address, with the proceeds going to some worthy cause or causes. If ten million fans participated, then that would mean $50 million for a charity. If a fan had two e-mail addresses and wanted to pay ten dollars to vote twice, that’s fine. More money for charity.
Next, the size of the All-Star squads should be cut back to eighteen, which was the size of the 1933 teams. In 2009 MLB expanded the rosters to 33. That’s farcical. This may mean that some years no Red Sox players will make the team. So be it.
Stipends for participating should depend upon winning or losing. Let the winners receive stipends twice the size of the losers’ shares.
Some of these “reforms” could also be applied to the NBA and NHL.
The NBA deserves credit for creating an All-Star Weekend basketball festival, which includes not just the game, but a slam dunk competition, shooting contests, and more. But the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format has grown stale. The NBA should emulate an earlier NHL approach and pick a 12 player All-Star “Dream Team” to play a team of international stars—the NBA vs. the World. Then maybe we’ll see some defense. This year’s NBA All-Star Game saw the East defeating the West 163-158, a typical score for this game. And let the players wear their team uniforms, the way the baseball players do it.
The NHL All-Star format has changed over the years. At one time, the Stanley Cup champs took on the best of the rest. Then it was conference vs. conference. I liked the “NHL vs. the World” concept that was tried in 2001 when the North American All-Stars defeated the World All-Stars 14-12, which is a score typical of NHL All-Star games. A different format saw Team Chara defeat Team Alfredsson 12-9 in 2012.
The NHL does not have an All-Star Game during Winter Olympic Years, which is good. The true All-Stars wear their countries’ uniforms—and presumably play hard defense.
The NFL’s “Pro Bowl” All-Star contest is a complete joke—a farce that should be done away with. The players hate the game and don’t try hard. Roger Goodell should drive a stake through the heart of this monstrosity.
As for the Maple Sugar Bowl Game, it’s time to acknowledge that Vermont just can’t compete. The Green Mountain Boys last won in 2000, which means they have even less luck against N.H. than the N.L. has against the A.L.
So, to make things fairer, take a field position from N.H. and give it to Vermont, and let Vermont play 12 against ten. I’m sure socialist Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would approve of punishing Granite State success in this fashion.
“Live free or die!”
Who hit the first home run in MLB All-Star game history? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on Sept. 3 include long-time NBA head coach Dick Motta (1931) and Olympic snowboarder Shaun White (1986).
“Baseball is like church. Many attend. Few understand.” – Leo Durocher
Babe Ruth, then 38 years old, hit a two-run homer in the American League’s 4-2 All-Star Game win in 1933.
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and for NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.