Baseball Stars, sports, and summer ’89

Baseball Stars NES Box ArtParents’ basements were made for safekeeping childhood memories.

I recently rediscovered a stack of Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges locked inside a storage bin in my folks’ home. The titles were part of an obviously curated collection that boasted some of my all-time NES games, including Contra, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, and River City Ransom. Honestly, I don’t remember when I purchased them. Was Contra the same cart that I picked up in ’88? Was Goonies II part of the game lot that came bundled with my top-loader NES eBay buy from a few years back? Those details are lost to time.

But when my eyes locked on the Baseball Stars cart, several major and minor dust-covered memories floated to the surface.

I remember buying Baseball Stars during the summer ’89 with money that I had saved since my mid-May birthday. I knew Baseball Stars was soon to hit retail due to write ups in various video game magazines, but in those days solid releases dates were incredibly rare. As a result, I held on to $50 for weeks, ignoring my desires to drop coin on Nerds candy and Daredevil and Uncanny X-Men comics.

That was a small miracle made possible by an overwhelming desire to own what I knew was going to be the best baseball video game ever made; a game that would enable me to create my all-time favorite players and teams and pitch, hit, and run all summer. And that’s exactly what I did after making the purchase. My friends and I devoted days to tweaking players and teams, and setting up elimination tournaments for nothing more than bragging rights. Days and nights melted away.

Rediscovering Baseball Stars also made me remember just how much I loved the sport during my teen years. I watched nearly every Mets and Yankees game that was broadcast during non-school hours, collected Topps, Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck trading cards, and obsessed over stats. I emulated Rickey Henderson’s offensive and defensive style when playing baseball with the boys. I began to casually wear batting gloves, too, a habit that continues until this day. Seriously. They help keep convention cooties at bay.

Nowadays, baseball’s plodding pace and overly long regular season don’t inspire me to do anything but turn the channel to the nearest MMA or NBA broadcast. And that’s fine.  I no longer have a desire to study box scores, or devote four hours of my day to watching men adjust their cups and spit brown sludge.

I’d rather take swings in Chelsea Piers’ batting cages or, now that it’s been reintroduced to my life, fire up Baseball Stars on a lazy weekend.

I once wanted to see Conor McGregor fight, but then UFC hyped him

Conor McGregor is a trash-talking mixed martial artist who possesses a skill set that lets him back up his never-ending lip-flapping.

“The Notorious One” has the impressive footwork, speed, and striking ability of a man with an extensive boxing background. He’s good. Really good. I’ve followed McGregor’s meteoric UFC rise for a few months now, as he’s left a path of broken brawlers in his wake—and he’s done so in explosive fashion. Last weekend, during UFC Fight Night 59, the 17-2 featherweight dismantled veteran Dennis Siver in a short two-round affair, yet I no longer have interest in seeing the brash Irish star ever fight again.

The UFC’s shoved the talented loudmouth down its audience’s throat in the weeks leading up to the event, courtesy of a marketing push that even some of the company’s current title holders have yet to enjoy. The first major annoyance? The UFC announcers comparing McGregor to Muhammad Ali, an icon who transcended sports to become one of the faces of the Civil Rights movement. To be fair, to McGregor’s backed away from the promotion’s Cassius Clay comparisons. Props to him for that. The UFC would’ve had to contend with the massive fan blowback had McGregor took the company’s word as truth.

The second annoyance? The show’s production crew kept a camera pointed toward McGregor’s face at all times, just in case the fighter gave an over-the-top reaction as he watched fellow countrymen mix it up in The Octagon. Honestly, UFC Fight Night 59 felt more like a WWE event than a MMA event.

Then this happened.

Conor McGregor is now set to challenge Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title.

I understand that the UFC is desperate for a fresh supply of marketable fighters after a rough 2014 that saw the promotion lose top talent due to injuries and contract disputes. I also understand that the UFC will give fighters title fights based on more than just rankings—fan demand plays a role, too, and McGregor has lots of it. That said, this incredible push already has an online backlash; many UFC fans are hoping that either McGregor quickly fades away or Jose Aldo uppercuts his head into the fifth row.

Scaling back a bit, the UFC/McGregor situation made me ponder the nature of the entertainment media. New movies, albums, and video games are hyped to obscene levels—think about how we know the multi-year plans and release schedules for the upcoming DC and Marvel superhero flicks. We’re living in a time of hyperbole and never-ending anticipation, and it’s grating on me in a very bad way.

There’s a delicate dance of giving people what they want vs. giving people too much of what they want, and the UFC needs to quickly level McGregor’s scales before customers like me who are currently the dissatisfied minority become the majority.