So I was watching the Home Run Derby last night and they had this contest where a fan from Philadelphia would "call a shot" for St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.
If Pujols hit a home run to where the fan pointed, the guy would win $1 million. If he did it on the second attempt, the guy would win a Chevy Suburban hybrid.
I didn't mind that, even though the fan in question was from Philadelphia. I say, bully for him and bon chance. Then ESPN announcer Chris Berman listed the other prizes the guy would win. Among them, the chance to throw out the first pitch during a World Series game.
Wait, what just happened?!?
The single, best honor in all of pro sports, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch during a World Series game? It was going to go to some guy who essentially won it during a raffle?
What the heck?!?
The first pitch at least used to be reserved for people who deserved it. Usually, it was great players from the team's history, or their widows, or their children. It might be the team owner. It might be a fan who has attended every home game since 1965.
If it was someone outside of the organization, the honor usually goes to our troops who served overseas. Or the men and women who serve the community on a daily basis as cops and firefighters. It might go to someone who has worked many years to make the community a better place.
When the Mets won the World Series in 1986, Elie Wiesel threw out the first pitch. Wiesel was just coming off the Nobel Peace Prize at that point.
It doesn't go to the fan who had the lucky number, something that is decided by pure coincidence.
The ceremonial first pitch is the most special honor in all of sports. The ceremonial puck drop? Lame. The ceremonial coin toss before a football game? Not bad, not great. Does basketball even have anything?
Remember the time in the "West Wing" when Bartlett had to throw warm-up pitches to Charlie in the hallway of the White House so he wouldn't embarrass himself before he threw out the first pitch? Remember the scene in "Dave," when the fake President won the hearts of the people because he threw a perfect strike? Nobody writes great scenes in TV and movies about the coin flip.
This is proof the game is being over-commercialized. If the fan from last night (who didn't win anything, after all) is coming off the Nobel Peace Prize, then I apologize. If he's a cop or a fireman, then let him throw out the pitch for that reason, not because he had his lucky number called.
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: The other problem with the Home Run Derby is that it drags on way too long. I gave up somewhere in the second round, when it was after 10 p.m. Tonight's All-Star Game on Fox is listed to start at 8 p.m., but I bet the first pitch (the actual first pitch, not the ceremonial one that will hopefully be thrown by someone worthy of the honor) doesn't come until about 8:45 p.m. Way to alienate the young fans, baseball. BTW, how much you want to bet that the person who sings the national anthem is a former "American Idol" contestant? The game a few years ago in which Fantasia Barrino sang it was the single worst rendition I've ever heard (barring the infamous Carl Lewis and Roseanne Barr versions, of course. The difference was, Fantasia is supposed to be a real singer).
If you want alternatives, "Warehouse 13" (SyFy, 9 p.m.) should be worth checking out, since Tricia Helfer ("Battlestar Galactica") guest stars. In case you glazed over that, let me repeat it for your benefit: Tricial Helfer guest stars on tonight's "Warehouse 13."
ABC airs a new "Better Off Ted" at 9 p.m.
CBS tortures us with a new "Big Brother" (CBS, 9 p.m.), while NBC does the same with "America's Got Talent" from 8-10 p.m.
TNT offers up new episodes of "HawthoRNe" at 9 p.m. and "Saving Grace" at 10 p.m., while Damian graduates firefighter school and gets appropriately hazed on "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.)
Finally, I forgot to list the new episodes of "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie" that aired last night on Showtime, but you can catch them tonight beginning at 10 p.m.