Monday, September 11, 2006

Why you've gotta love independent leagues

I was really not a big fan of sports outside of the pros. College is ok, high school recalls too many beatings, and amateur leagues are just that. You always have to kind of figure that if these people were really good at the game, they'd be getting paid for it.

But my opinion has been gradually changing over the past summer as I've been exposed to more minor league and independent league sports than I could shake a stick at. There's something quaint and homey about the indy leagues, and it is refreshing in a way to watch guys play for peanuts just because they love the game. Of course, this isn't to say that they wouldn't jump at a chance to play in the bigs, but unlike so many professional players, they continue to play despite making rather humble money for professional athletes.

And, again unlike the bigs, minor leagues and indy leagues really cater to fans. Tickets are reasonable prices, and understanding that the game (especially the game of baseball) can get rather boring without the story arcs of overexposed professional athletes, they do much more to keep the games exciting. While some people decry the Donut Burger and promos such as vasectomy night as cheap gimmicks that hurt the game, I'm sure the average fan appreciates the inherent humor of them.

But for me, it really comes back to the players. The guys are pretty universally just people who weren't good enough to make/last in the bigs and bring a kind of blue-collar ethic to the game. Case in point: last night, players from both the Saint Paul Saints and the Fort Worth Cats were arrested for brawling at a bar in St. Paul after the Cats beat the hometown Saints for the American Association League championship.

Can you even imagine pro players all going to a bar together after the game, let alone both teams going out together? And then, can you imagine them doing that after the world series? And then can you even begin to imagine them being so into the game that they get into a fist fight after the game?

Nah, me neither. Guess those guys who can't play quite as well may be the more entertaining players after all.

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