FANS, SEND BASEBALL A MESSAGE: STRIKE 1ST

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It's time baseball fans take control of their game.

Baseball doesn't belong to the greedy, quarreling owners or players; they are merely caretakers. The game will always belong to the fans, who dutifully pay their money and come out to root, root, root for the home team, and if they don't win it's a shame.

What's more of a shame is the way baseball continues to deteriorate. Even Ryne Sandberg couldn't tolerate the downward spiral-specifically of the Cubs (who are 34-46 at this writing, after finishing above .500 last year and then firing their manager) but also of the dismal game in general.

The ever-ebullient Ernie Banks would be hard-pressed to enthuse: "Let's play two" (today he'd probably say "Let's play one and get out of here").

The Los Angeles Times reported that ESPN's telecasts of the World Cup soccer matches are easily outscoring prime-time baseball games. The writer, Mike Penner, lists 30 different reasons why this could be, including, "After soccer games, fans light fireworks and throw them in the air. After baseball games, players light fireworks and throw them at the fans"; and "soccer players run virtually nonstop for 90 minutes despite searing temperatures that sometimes reach 120 degrees. Baseball players beat out an infield grounder and complain that there's no beer in the clubhouse." And my favorite reason: "When soccer players grab their crotches in public-bracing for a free kick that will send the ball screaming toward their midsections at 90 to 100 mph-they do so for a very good reason."

And now the baseball players have voted to set yet another strike date, most likely for Aug. 16, the day after they get their second paycheck of the month. The players have stashed away a strike fund of between $175 million and $200 million from their share of licensing revenue for the last four years (when they struck the last time). The owners want a cap on players' salaries based on a percentage of revenue; the players, as you might imagine, don't want any cap on the owners' willingness to throw money at the athletes.

Left out of this equation is the long-suffering fan, and I say we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. What I propose is that for one day the fans go on strike by not showing up at ballparks around the U.S. and Canada.

The fans have it within their power to shut down the game of baseball before the owners and the players do it themselves. They can control the destiny of the game by showing that they are the ultimate authority, and as such deserve to have fan representatives on both the players association and the owners' group.

So let the word go out: On Saturday, Aug. 13, there will be a fan strike at all Major League baseball fields, demanding that the players and owners come to terms and stop all their nonsense. The fans are finally serving notice that they are taking over their game.

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