BEANIE BABIES

by David Sisler

The Atlanta Braves lost game one of the National League Championship Series last week at home with 8,000 seats not sold. The next night, they lost game two of the NLCS with 7,000 seats not sold.

High ticket prices were blamed by some for all of the no-sales, but with prices virtually the same in San Diego, New York, and Cleveland, those stadiums were full.

I think it is something else complacency. It is trendy to be a Braves fan like having a cigar and a cappuccino. Real fans don't get complacent. Ask Cub fans whose team has not won a World Series during the lifetime of almost any Cub fan alive. Ask Pirate fans who live with the memory of crippled old Sid Bream wheezing around third, sliding home inches in front of the tag, dashing the Bucs' hopes once again. And real fans don't want until a comeback is mounted and then besiege the scalpers.

But I digress.

15,000 unsold seats for baseball's second best ticket could have been filled if the promoters had remembered two words: Beanie Babies.

When David Wells pitched his perfect game this year, it was Beanie Baby night at Yankee Stadium. Nearly 50,000 people turned out to get Valentino the Bear, as opposed to the 16,600 who had showed up for Wells' previous start.

The Minnesota Twins almost doubled their average attendance when they gave away Lucky the Ladybug Beanies.

Created by Ty Warner in 1993, any product this popular will generate rip-offs and knock-offs. Enter "Meanies" featuring Boris the Mucousaurus, a T-Rex with a runny nose, and Spat the Road Kill Rat, who looks like he has been run over. On the nicer side are "Bean Sprouts," "Pebble Pets," and for the church crowd, "Kingdom Critters."

First it was adults acting very child-like scarfing up Cabbage Patch Dolls. Recently there were fist fights over Tickle Me Elmos, Trolls, and Holiday Barbies. An entire generation of children is being raised with a "gotta-have-it-now" mentality. If it's new, if it's flashy, and if next-door-Susie has one, my kid's gotta have it! Now! And if I have to trample you to get it, you shouldn't be so slow.

The Beanie Boobs, and their kin, are saying, "I'm getting this for my child." Sure. And allow me to show you my Florida swamp land. I know a woman who raced all over three towns, made dozens of long distance calls, and spent a small fortune to get a Tickle Me Elmo for an 18 month old baby!

This is not a blanket criticism of all Beanie Baby collectors (my mother and sister- in-law would wreak havoc upon me if it were). A man who collects old post cards, Golden Books, Star Trek memorabilia, and old globes should not throw stones, or even walk where there are stones. Besides, I bought Quackers the Duck for my wife as a "just because" present (it is my only trip into the madness that is Beanie). My gripe is with the greedy-guts who have pushed the price of Peanut, the royal blue elephant, to $5000, and who have made a child's toy more important than children.

"Some of these people are rude really rude," columnist Cynthia G. La Ferle's son told her, citing the example of a grown woman who "made an ugly face" at him when he reached for the same Beanie Baby she was after. Guess who got the toy?

Ms La Ferle asks, "What can you tell children when adults misbehave? They're just grown-ups," she replies with resignation. "They don't know any better."

Ty's marketers deserves a finger wagged in their direction instant shortages (i.e., retired Beanies) cause short-circuits in otherwise healthy brains. Have a hobby, enjoy the toys, collect them to your heart's content, but blame the snarling, pushing, shoving, trample-your-grandmother accumulators for the insanity that inflates the price of a $4.95 toy to hundreds of dollars. The only way to explain it is greed.

It is greed that causes speculators to offer $1,000,000 for a baseball. It is greed that causes a young couple to work extraordinary hours to afford an uptown house they only seem to sleep in, and two cars whose names they cannot spell, while their kids are raised in a day care center. It is greed that causes us to owe so much money on credit cards that laws are considered which will make it more difficult to seek bankruptcy relief.

Greed is a symptom of emptiness. We are trying to fill a hole in our hearts with things, a hole that Augustine called "God-shaped." We are increasingly inflicted with a disease-syndrome that preaches and practices, "He who dies with the most toys wins." He who dies with the most toys is still dead. And a death without that God-shaped hole filled, without Jesus Christ in your heart, is eternal death.

-30-

Published in the Augusta Chronicle 10/17/98

Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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