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Tuning in to tradition



As the second half of the Major League Baseball season crept along, I found myself yearning for cable access due in large part to ESPN's endless broadcasts, highlights and studio shows during the post-season. Fortunately for my wife, I have resisted attempts to cut that check to Time Warner. But thanks to my trusty antenna, I was able to watch a recent Red Sox/Yankees game on Fox.

I don't watch much baseball until October, but there is something about this rivalry that kept me tuned in. Maybe it was my childhood memories of backyard baseball. Maybe it was the lure of Fenway Park. Maybe it was the tradition of relaxing on a Saturday afternoon. The hotdogs, peanuts, crackerjack, millionaire athletes--it's all such Americana.

But on this Saturday, another tradition reared its ugly head. In the third inning, Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who makes $25 million a season (that's $154,320 a game), was hit by a pitch. He took umbrage, cursed the pitcher and then told the catcher to bring it on. The two "men" exchanged words, then punches. A bench clearing brawl ensued, after which each of the aforementioned players was ejected from the game.

I watched these fools sully a game I love, but I knew these brawls had also become tradition, like chewing tobacco. While the umpiring crew sorted out the melee that replaced the Sox/Yankees game, I thought about how tradition is basically a glorified word for accepting something that's been around awhile. This begs the question, Which traditions are beautiful and which are dangerous? Which are the Sunday barbecues and which are the soul-deadening travesties of life?

Tradition is everywhere and no one is immune, nor should we be. But when tradition itself becomes the sole reason for doing something, anything, then the time has come to reevaluate our conviction.

History bears this out. Men killed the fellow who spoke against the traditional view of the sun revolving around the earth. Men upheld slavery and kept women subservient based on a narrow, traditional reading of the Bible, for God's sake! If we can do that, what else have we done and what else are we doing?

The game resumed and the Sox went on to win 11-10, thanks to a ninth inning two-run home run. Sweet justice. My afternoon of relaxation spent watching overpaid athletes run around in pajama-like uniforms paid off. And so I thought, "I could watch the rubber match of the three-game series Sunday on ESPN... if I had cable."

The game of the week could become a nice little tradition--the calm before the work week's storm. I could also watch Jon Stewart, the Weather Channel and X-Files reruns. Unfortunately, there's doubt in my household that I have the discipline to avoid day-long channel surfing. I may know little, but I know I'm unwilling to chance the advent of this tradition. I'd live in the matrix. I'd die.

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