Read and react: In praise of the magnificent dinger

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(Getty Images)
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The Home Run Derby is a farce. It's a carnival game tricked up and #branded beyond recognition, a ridiculous made-for-TV exhibition with (allegedly) juiced balls that fly like it's the Summer of McGwire and Sosa all over again.

And I freaking love it.

I love the unmistakable whock sound of a ball destined for the seats, the wide camera angle, the meathead fans leaping over each other to catch homers, the youth-league kids scrambling for short flies. How in the bag am I for the Home Run Derby? Don't tell anyone, but I even enjoyed Chris Berman's "back-back-back" call back in the day.

In literally the only thing that's gone right for the snakebit Mets all year, New York's Pete Alonso won Monday night's Home Run Derby. Alonso and seven other bangers put on an exhibition that looked like someone had toggled on the longball cheat code ... which kind of makes it the perfect metaphor for the first half of this dinger-filled season, really. Alonso knocked off the Blue Jays' Vlad Guerrero Jr. after a satellite-scraping second round that bore about as much resemblance to regular-season baseball as a Vegas buffet does to a candlelight dinner.

Look, we're not exactly breaking news here by saying that baseball's struggling for eyeballs, if not necessarily butts in seats. Where football and basketball are sports with national appeal, baseball's increasingly a locally-focused concern. Hell, if you could even identify all eight of this year's Derby contestants, that puts you ahead of 95 percent of American sports fans.

Even so, there's something primal about the soaring arc of a home run, the single most definitive statement of purpose and dominance in sports. (Don't @ me, dunk fans and Hail Mary zealots.) Our own Hannah Keyser has some strong ideas for spicing up the Derby, but at its heart is the beautiful, perfect home run itself.

I'm not going to lie; I'm not half the baseball fan I was back in, say, the 1990s. But nights like last night—along with the All-Star Game itself—remind me why I'll always come back to the sport. If you too have drifted away, come on back for the All-Star Game tonight. Bet you'll see a home run or seven.

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Behold the majesty of the ... bunt?

Home runs are for the masses. Real baseball fans prefer the subtle artistry of a well-executed bunt, like in this Korean baseball derby.


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