To me, the Midsummer Classic is one of the truly great events in sports. It can't compete with the sheer magnitude of the World Series, the Super Bowl, or the Stanley Cup Finals, but it is the one place where you can see the best players in a professional sport take the field in a single game.
The MLB All-Star Game is vastly superior to other pro sports' all-star contests for one simple reason: the players actually compete. Not just because "The road to October starts here," as the commercials we've seen during ballgames the past several weeks have told us countless times, though home field advantage in the World Series is surely a good incentive to win (if a player's team is in the hunt). But whether they have a shot at the post-season or not, the players go out and play the way they do in the All-Star Game because they love their game and take pride in playing it the right way.
The NFL Pro Bowl, for comparison, is almost always a high-scoring affair, with each team often scoring forty or more points. One could chalk this up to impressive performances by the collective offensive squads. However, everyone knows that the defensive players don't exactly try their hardest out there-no one wants to lower the boom on a guy and potentially injure him in an exhibition game. In the MLB All-Star Game, the defense doesn't pussyfoot around-Justin Verlander throws the same 97-mph fastballs he always does, because he wants to strike guys out. He plays to win.
In the NBA All-Star Game, most offensive production is either ridiculous dunks over defenders who could clearly care less, or three-pointers heaved up from farther away than any reasonable player would ever consider shooting from in a regulation game. The players seem to care very little for the quality of the game itself. At the MLB All-Star Game, the offense doesn't just take half-hearted swings-Joe Mauer's going to smack a two-out double into the gap in left, because he wants to drive in some runs. He plays to win.
There are other events in sports where can you see the best players all playing on a single field, or court, or rink. But the MLB All-Star Game is the only one where you can see the best players take the field and truly compete. Strategies may be different than in regular-season games-the starting pitcher may only throw a few innings, a dominant slugger like Prince Fielder may be lifted for a pinch runner in only the third or fourth inning, and you'll probably never see a balls-to-the-wall collision at home plate. Despite these deviations from the norm, all the players in the MLB All-Star Game came to compete. Even better, they all came to win.
And that is why I love the MLB All-Star Game.