Slammin’ Sammy and the Disco Ball

A Word on Spectacle and Substance

When famed home run hitter Sammy Sosa got caught with a corked bat, it set off a flurry of accusations and controversy over dishonesty in major league baseball. Slammin’ Sammy (who finished his seven-game suspension last week) has always been known as one of baseball’s flashier players, but that was one time he probably wishes he could’ve sidestepped the spotlight.

But Sosa’s error raises a question that transcends the ballfield.

As a society, it’s as if we’ve become entranced by a spinning disco ball, which glitters and turns but never actually makes us feel like dancing.

The long ball
Today it seems, if it’s not a home run, it’s just not quite exciting enough. More and more teams are spending big bucks on players who have the power to hit the long ball, even when eyebrows are raised over how they might be getting stronger.

Putting together scrappy hits which lead to runs might require savvy, smart base running, but team owners seem to think fans will come to the park only if they’re guaranteed some amount of spectacle.

So did a home run hitter in a slump alter his bat in order to continue giving the fans and his bosses what they want?

The rose ceremony
So much has been written about the pop-culture impact of television shows like The Bachelor, American Idol and Survivor, among countless others. These guilty pleasures are scriptless, low-budget attempts to prey on our human inclination for voyeurism.

We’re told they are “regular” people on these shows, just like us. The spectacle is the moment when judge Simon berates a teenage singer, or when a bachelorette, humiliated, does not receive a rose and is caught in hysterics. There is something oddly thrilling about watching the participants of Survivor trash talk each other privately to the camera.

That disco ball turns ever faster before our eyes.

The super-sized fries
You may have already noticed that you can now get gum that comes in “extreme” flavors or that fast food chains have bumped up their super-sizing to something like super-duper-sizing. You don’t need to simply adjust the bass on your stereo, because now there’s super bass .

The push to go over-the-top is being marketed to us behind every corner. The spectacle is in the invitation and the approval to take more than we need or even want.

But when were we so unhappy with the way things were before? Does anyone really need to drink a 64-ounce soda while devouring a King Size Snickers?

The more of less
A priest once described to me the beauty of quiet in meditation. He made a case for the richness within our hearts and how we are often trying to get away from that by filling our thoughts and the space around us with constant noise, constant spectacle.

Perhaps he had the right idea. Maybe as a society we need to take it down a few notches from the instant gratification and Vegas-like entertainment that seem to be coming our way. I know for myself, there are even times during Mass when I crave silence, the kind of prayer that quietly and powerfully fills our hearts and spirits.

Ultimately, is it really so hard to pull the plug on that disco ball for just a short while?