Forget Great Wins and Losses: 2012's Most 'Meh' Sports Happenings

6. Detroit's high-profile defeats. My one (public) attempt at political strategizing—that a celebratory appearance in the World Champion Detroit Tigers' locker room might pave Mitt Romney's path to victory—was certainly a non-event, several times over. The Tigers failed to set the scene by losing the Series in four straight games. And I have to say in retrospect that Michigan's electoral votes, and the presidency in general, were a lot cause for Romney even if the Tigers had done better. Detroit did not play the role of the 1969 Miracle Mets in my scenario, and Romney turned out to be no John Lindsay.

7. The soccer victory no one watched. Soccer’s global icon David Beckham’s six-year stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy came to an end with the Galaxy winning its second straight Major League Soccer championship. But Beckham's celebrity failed to move the needle on the sport's meager television ratings (this year's final between the Galaxy and Houston Dynamo got a 0.7 overnight rating, which was lower than the third round of golf’s World Challenge on NBC [1.0] and lower than MLS Cup 2011, which got a 0.8 rating featuring the same two teams) or secure more than a marginal place in the national sports consciousness.

8. The Baseball Hall of Fame one again ignores movers and shakers off the field. Once again George Wharton Pepper was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame—nor, so far as I know, has anyone ever suggested that he should be. But I thought of Pepper when former baseball players union executive Marvin Miller died in late November. Miller had broken the reserve clause's stranglehold on players' careers and salaries by engineering the advent of fee agency in 1975, and his admirers lamented the fact that, notwithstanding the tremendous impact he had on the sport—comparable to Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth in the opinion of many—he had been rejected for inclusion in the sport's hallowed shrine on numerous occasions. Which is what made me think of Pepper. Pepper was the Philadelphia lawyer who managed to persuade the United States Supreme Court in 1922 that organized baseball was not engaged in interstate commerce and therefore was not subject to federal antitrust law. That ruling provided the legal armor that for more than half a century—longer than the free agency system that Miller won—enabled the sport's owners to do business more or less as they pleased without significant interference whether from players or politicians, let alone fans. Can one say that his impact on the sport was less than Miller's?

9. American mens' tennis remains shut out. In the season-ending rankings of the men’s professional tennis tour, no American man is in the top 10, and only one, John Isner at No. 14, made the top 20. Leading Isner are three Spaniards, two Serbs, two Argentines, two Frenchmen, one Brit, one Swiss, one Czech, and one Canadian. Rounding out the top 20: one Croat, one Ukranian, one Japanese, one German, one Frenchmen, and one Swiss. Just business as usual this millenium and an accurate barometer of the current state of American tennis, at least so far as the men are concerned. No American has won a men's singles title in a Grand Slam event since 2003 when Andre Agassi won the Australian and Andy Roddick the US Open. Their success marked the end of an era. The next year, for the first time since 1988, no American man won a grand slam— launching the era we are now in. If it's any consolation for American tennis fans, it could be worse so far as the international standing of American tennis is concerned. Nowadays, as the multinational complexion of the current rankings shows, the US is being clobbered by the rest of the world. For those of us who can remember the 1950s and early 1960s, back then Australia was all by itself clobbering the United States.

10. Horse racing's slow fall to obscurity continues. December 26 , the day after Christmas, is the traditional opening day of the winter season at Santa Anita racetrack. Looking through some old papers that day, I came across a memento of the 1982 opening: a losing exacta ticket from that day. I'm sure I didn't lack for the fellowship of other losers on that day 30 years ago. That afternoon 69,293 of us were jammed into "the great race place." This year's attendance was 27,000. And that is the way it is with horse racing nowadays, as average daily attendance at Santa Anita has dropped from 30,902 in 1980-81 to just 8,074 last year. The track says it hopes to reverse the steadily downward trend with better marketing and more "user friendly" betting facilities. It is sure to be a futile effort. The sad truth is that most of those 69,000-plus on hand in 1982 were not there for the sport of kings at all. They were gamblers looking for action and once the race track lost its monopoly on legalized betting, it has turned out that there just weren't as many "racing fans" or "improvers of the breed" as those attendance figures might have suggested.

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Henry D. Fetter is the author of Taking on the Yankees: Winning and Losing in the Business of Baseball and has written widely about the business and politics of sports. More

Henry D. Fetter is the author of Taking on the Yankees: Winning and Losing in the Business of Baseball (WW Norton). He has written about the business and politics of sports, the American left, Jewish and Israeli history, and legal affairs for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Times Literary Supplement, the Journal of Sport History, Israel Affairs, The Public Interest, American Communist History, The National Pastime, and the Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, and his work has appeared in several baseball history anthologies.

His article "Revising the Revisionists: Walter O' Malley, Robert Moses and the End of the Brooklyn Dodgers" was awarded the Kerr History Prize for the best article published in 2008 in the journal New York History; an earlier version of that article was presented at the Columbia University symposium "Robert Moses: New Perspectives on the Master Builder" (March 2007) and received a McFarland-SABR Baseball Research Award. He is the recipient of research grants from the Society for American Baseball Research and the Harry S. Truman Library Institute.

Fetter is a graduate of Harvard Law School and also holds degrees in history from Harvard College and the University of California, Berkeley. A native New Yorker, he attended his first major league baseball game at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field on Memorial Day 1955 and some years later followed the Dodgers to Los Angeles where he has practiced business and entertainment litigation for the past 30 years.

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