Carnac the Magnificent couldn’t have seen it coming (Pioneers of Television / PBS / Sun & Th).
By the time Johnny Carson retired in 1992 after 30 years manning the night desk, The Tonight Show had been transformed from a time-slot enigma into an American institution.
And it almost never happened.
Hosting a daytime game show when he got the call from NBC (‘62), Carson passed on their initial offer. They cast their line for Bob Newhart next. He didn‘t bite. JC would come around but it got me wondering how these talented entertainers could balk at TV stardom.
Why the hesitation? Two words: the grind.
Anyone can shine once in a blue moon.
But to keep your guests happy, the audience tuned-in and be on your game five days a week, 250 days a year takes a special kinda’ person.
And it’s that same grind which every major league manager will be speaking to when he prepares his team for baseball’s second season.
You don’t need to be an insider to know how much these guys look forward to the rest & relaxation of the four-day All-Star break. That is, for the non-selectees.
You’ve gotta’ go back to February since most players / coaches have had any real time off.
MLB’s midsummer money grab is here to stay. It wasn’t the plan, but the Home Run Derby’s become such a hit with the young’ens that it’s now the high-water mark of the whole baseball season. Careful what ya’ wish for Bud, you just might get it!
And it’s that success which puts it in conflict with the players need for R & R. It’s the stars, pushed to participate in the hoopla, that are some of the most deserving of respite. It is they who’ve been, and are expected to continue, leading their teams on down the stretch.
While the All-Star game’s always been more burden than blessing for players, at least its exhibition status made it tension-free (Pete Rose excepted). But the 2002 contest in Milwaukee changed all that. Ending in a 7-7 tie, it caused a collective hissy-fit by media, 100 beer-throwing attendees and gave greedmeisters impetus to turn it into a carnival.
For those lucky to get the All-Star snub it means a nice breather. And they’ll need it, too. Whether your bedroom nightstand is home to a Rolex or Seiko, it’s no matter. Pros feel the grind just like the rest of us.
There’s the weather (brutal summer heat), the travel, the interviews and the public demands. Then there’s the game. Punctuated with moments of agony (Byrd / Posey), master craftsman like Mariano Rivera and Ichiro Suzuki make it look so easy. The serious fan knows better.
Then there are the aches & pains.
There’s not a player who doesn’t have some kinda’ mid-season hurt. For vets like Derek Jeter and Lance Berkman, point-men for the pennant drive, a four-day break is a welcome friend (and why La Russa oughta’ sit All-Stars Lance and Matt Holliday for short spells).
It’s no wonder why so many players seem less than enthusiastic when the All-Star Home Run Derby & Family Fun Show Extravaganza is the topic of talk.
What is a wonder is how former players can chastise the guys who skip the event. ESPN analysts Bobby Valentine (ex-utility man) and Orel “Bulldog” Hershiser (pitcher) have no sympathy for All-Star sick leave. Don’t bite the hand (MLB) that feeds you, huh? That doesn’t mean you have to give ’em a manicure, boys.
The baseball season is a marathon. Teams that conserve energy, know when to cut their losses and understand game-management will go the furthest. Staying healthy helps.
Like the NFL, baseball’s EZ-Pass playoff system ensures that any team in the post-season can win it all. And lately, any team usually does. Those venturing out to pick a favorite in either League are just whistling Dixie.
So drink those liquids and apply that sunscreen, fellas (SPF 20+). The dog days of summer have arrived. Here is where we separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Note: This article is dedicated to the brave people of Japan: those who died from, were hurt by or assisted in relief efforts of the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.
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