Baseball dumps the Champagne

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THERE’S NOT much good news amid the ashes of the Sept. 11 terror attack, but here’s a sign that America – in spite of the tragedy – might actually become a better place:

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has asked that championship teams forgo the champagne celebrations this year.

It’s about time, I say.

For too long, our sacred national pastime has been infected by this insurgent foreign alcohol. All that Frenchy bubbly, poured in the frenzy of winning, has spoiled our All-American idols. The purity of Babe and Mickey’s game has been stained for too long by the fermented grapes of Pierre and Jean-Claude.

Dumping champagne at our hour of gloom is the best thing baseball could do for the game . . . and our nation.

The cynics gripe that it’s an obvious public relations ploy. Rather than acting out of some patriotic urge to uphold traditional American values, they whine, Selig is more concerned with the televised image of high-fiving, booze-drenched ballplayers giddily splashing $500 bottles around the locker room while much of the nation is in tears.

But it should be clear that Selig has a nobler agenda. When a guy named Bud from Milwaukee starts talking about booze, it can mean only one thing:

Beer.

Beer, truly, is the only appropriate adult beverage for baseball. Whether sloshed out of plastic cups by bleacher vendors, or advertised on the giant scoreboard in right field, beer courses through baseball like the very corpuscles in our red-blooded American veins.

You go to a ball game, you don’t see pinky-fingered snoots sipping Chablis in the 700 Level. Softball teams play for kegs, not magnums. And, dammit, that was Miller Lite, not Gallo Rotgut, that Marvelous Marv Throneberry and Bob Uecker used to shill for.

It’s only fitting that we toast our baseball heroes with nice, cold, 100 percent American beer.

To me, booting high-priced imported wine is a sign that baseball – long out of touch with its common fans – is finally seeing the error of its money-grubbing ways. A return to beer means a return to baseball’s populist roots: natural grass, cheap seats, 25-cent scorecards, day games.

Yes, I know, some will defend champagne celebrations as part of the grand tradition of crowning a champion. And it’s true, the fine pffft from a freshly opened can of Coors just can’t match the gushing fountain from a bottle of Korbel. But, frankly, foam is over-rated, and, if nothing else, it reveals a shocking weakness among our steroid-pumped jocks. Namely, the ritual post-game draping of those Mommy-like plastic slip-covers over open lockers, to protect their precious Levis. Yo, I’m not going to call Derek Jeter a sissy (I did that once, and learned my lesson), but if you can’t spill a little booze on your pants without busting out the fabric softener, what good is it being a guy?

So, how did champagne worm its way into baseball?

I dunno for sure, but I think we can reasonably assume that the New York Yankees had something to do with it.

For one thing, New York City has never been a beer town. It’s the kind of place where tuxedo-wearing dandies suck down exotic cocktails and sip champagne from ladies’ slippers.

On second thought, maybe I only saw that in a Fred Astaire movie.

Whatever, the Bronx Bombers love nothing better than winning the World Series, just so they can pop the cork in America’s face.

It was no surprise, then, that the Yankees were the only team to balk at Selig’s champagne decree. After they dispatched the Seattle Mariners last week, manager Joe Torre and his pampered pin-stripers pulled out chilled bottles of Lafitte de Hoity-Toity and toasted their 48th consecutive American League pennant as if it were their birthright.

I even heard one of the Yankees say that denying themselves a few gulps of champagne would be like letting the terrorists win.

Cut me a break.

If protecting the American Way means letting a bunch of millionaire cry-babies soak their egos in an expensive champagne bath, I say maybe it’s time to re-examine our values.

Baseball fans and beer drinkers everywhere can agree:

The hell with Osama. Beat the Yankees!

Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a bottle of Heavyweight Lunacy Golden Ale.

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