EDITORIAL : Baseball: greed, vanity and shame
Saturday, Oct 31, 2009, Page 8
Saturday, Oct 31, 2009, Page 8
For better or worse, baseball is Taiwan’s national sport.
With the latest crop of game-fixing confessions and an ongoing investigation, however, “worse” is the word, and baseball fans have every reason to feel and express disgust. But the targets of their anger should by no means be limited to the offending players. The baseball industry is sick — possibly terminally — and there is little sign of the change needed to stamp out criminal influence and restore public trust.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) — not Chinese, fitfully professional and barely a league — has utterly failed to provide the oversight that would have prevented the latest sequence of game-fixing from reaching such a diabolical climax.Previous game-fixing sagas — the most recent being the expulsion of the Macoto Cobras-cum-dmedia T-Rex franchise — at least were limited to the ordinary season.This time, the criminals, the venal players and their hopeless organizations have stained the entire season, from the first game to the series-deciding match last weekend between the Uni-President Lions and the Brother Elephants.
The CPBL had enough warning of the weaknesses in its organization and its inability to police suspect players. It did not take seriously its responsibility to understand why Taiwanese baseball is so vulnerable to game-fixing, let alone implement strict oversight policies and player-focused reforms to combat it. Partly because of its inflexible organizational structure, and partly because of its mediocre officials, the CPBL was insufficiently vigilant, and the sport is close to paying the final price.
It is hard to see how corporate sponsors will fork out good money in a time of economic instability for a flailing competition that has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises. The Cabinet’s Sports Affairs Council, meanwhile, will continue to wash its hands of any responsibility, regardless of its formal agenda, for ensuring that Taiwan’s sporting environment flourishes — especially baseball. In a country whose bureaucratic culture trains officials to think that sports exist for their benefit, and not the other way around, this comes as no surprise.
As for the diehard fans, will words of comfort make any difference? No. They follow a code that is among the most vulnerable to criminal incursion; they have watched attendance figures nosedive in rough proportion to the credibility of the league; the sport’s administrators are a mixture of braggarts, cronies and incompetents; the dedicated personnel in the industry are demoralized and disempowered; and the government offers little more than weak promises of continued support — even as it diverts precious resources to irrelevant baseball vanity projects linked to city and county governments.
The shame that this episode has generated is not just personal, professional and institutional. It is national: It is a slap in the face for everyone who feels pride when Taiwanese teams perform — at home or in international competitions.
It is also a chilling symbol of failure and abject lack of character for the thousands of children who love baseball and who hoped one day to represent their country in this sport. Field of dreams? Time to wake up.