Goodbye paper All-Star ballots

So MLB is eliminating paper All-Star ballots at stadiums in favor of online voting. Now what? Is someone going to tell me I have to get rid of my cassette tapes and parachute pants? C’mon.

All right, I’m not really an old curmudgeon, so I understand that this makes sense. Bloomberg reported that 80 percent of ballots cast last season were online and that 16 million paper ballots went unused. Trees everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief.

But generations of fans are feeling pangs of nostalgia. Filling out your All-Star ballot(s) was a rite of summer. And we all had our different techniques.

I took a two-prong approach. I filled out homer ballots until my hand couldn’t hold a pencil. That meant Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus, Manny Trillo, Dave Kingman, even Steve Ontiveros. Yes, in 1978 I voted for Ontiveros over Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose and Ron Cey. On A LOT of ballots.

I can still picture clearly scanning the ballot for Cubs and wondering how a city the size of Chicago couldn’t get all our players into the game.

After a million homer ballots, though, I’d start to feel a little guilty. I knew some, many, most of the Cubs I was voting for didn’t really deserve to play in the Midsummer classic. So I’d sigh and I’d fill out one or maybe two ballots based on who I really felt deserved to be an All-Star that year. Hey, I didn’t want to make a mockery of the process. I must admit, however, that I skipped over some very deserving Cardinals over the years.

Worried about stuffing the ballot, I’d walk around the concourse spreading out my ballots in different collection boxes. But I was convinced that my votes would make the difference in DeJesus finally getting the recognition he deserved. He never did. But I tried. I was a real Cubs fan who exercised my right to vote. And when you’re a kid, you don’t get that many chances in life to have your voice heard.

And now it’s over. No more paper ballot, no more feel of that heavy card stock. No more stuffing an actual ballot box.

But it’s not a bad thing. Truth be told, I’ve already been voting online for years. I’ve even wondered out loud why they still printed all those ballots in an age when someone can sit in their seat with an iPhone and vote to their hearts content.

Yet I still mourn, and we all know why. It’s the same reason my dad talked wistfully of his 1956 Chevy that only started half the time. He ended up with more reliable cars, but the loss of that car meant another sliver of his youth had been carved away.

Yesterday, I overheard my wife trying to describe vinyl records, cassettes and even CDs to my 5-year-old son. You could tell the talk meant more to her, and to me eavesdropping, than it did to him. Yes, it’s way easier to download music, to get in the car and have your tunes magically crank up through Bluetooth. Sure, it’s a better process to vote for All-Stars digitally.

But vinyl albums, Pac-Man, Thriller, muscle cars and even paper All-Star ballots were the things that made us us back then. I want to make clear that I did not have parachute pants.

But hey, we had to grow up, and before we knew it, we defined our lives in different ways. Jobs, kids, houses …

But some things remain the same. We still get to vote for All-Stars. We can still stuff the digital ballot box with Cubs. It’s time to get clicking.

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