(Graphic by: Felisha Larsen)
(Graphic by: Felisha Larsen)

Rewards have always been a good motivator. They are a classic parenting technique. How else can you get a child to clean their room? You have to bribe them or take something away.

The same goes for athletes. They work hard for the ultimate prize winning the division, making the playoffs, winning a championship. It matters. It’s something many players strive for their whole career. Any help in this quest is welcome.

The Major League Baseball All-Star game is tonight. Although baseball, to me, isn’t the most exciting sport, the Midsummer Classic is by far the best all-star game in professional sports for one reason: It matters.

Every big professional sport has its own version of the all-star game. Baseball’s all-star game is different because the winning team gets a distinct advantage at the end of the season. The league that wins gets home-field advantage in the World Series. No other all-star game gives such an incentive to its participants.

The NFL’s all-star game, the Pro Bowl, is different because it is held a week before the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl players on each of the teams competing in the Super Bowl do not attend the event, instead resting for the big game. The Pro Bowl has also faced scrutiny for the past few years. The tackling has been a joke, defense rarely puts in a lot of effort, and the fans have reacted. The NFL has been contemplating scrapping the game, barring an increased effort by the players. Last season, the game was a little better. J.J. Watt even came out with a bloodied arm, showing it to the camera to prove to Commissioner Roger Goodell that they were working hard. It may just be so they can keep their free trip to Hawaii.

The NBA all-star game isn’t any better on the defensive side. The games usually end with each team scoring at least 150 points. The best part of the all-star weekend is the skills competitions: the 3-Point Shootout, the Slam Dunk Contest, the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge. But I think the game itself is the most entertaining out of all the all-star games out there.

In soccer, a team of all-stars is put together to face a foreign league team. Hockey has forgone conferences and has two teams put together from a player pool, much like a fantasy league.

Baseball’s all-star game is a bit strange. There is a lot of strategy involved. Each team has a 34-man roster, which make for constant lineup and pitching changes. But there is just something different about the game. You can tell that the players are giving their all, no matter if their actual team has any chance of making the World Series, or even the playoffs. That is true league pride.

When something matters, all stops are pulled out. The fans get what they want: true competition and the best players in the game providing it. That is what the MLB all-star game provides.

So sit back and watch a true competition. It sort of has an Olympic-type feel, because everything is put out on the line to not only represent yourself, but your league. The strategy may go right over your head, but the spirit of the game is intoxicating.

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