Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The WBC & The Evil Empire

They're playing a World Cup-style tournament over in the Americas and Asia, the World Baseball Classic. With only sixteen teams, it's not yet worldly (the Italians are comprised almost entirely of Italian-Americans) and it's certainly not yet a classic, but all the same it's the first thing that's made me really miss ESPN.

What do I miss? Comments like this from Team Canada Coach Ernie Whitt, describing his club's feelings after almost losing to South Africa, the weakest team in the tournament, on Monday:

"We felt we were kicked in the stomach last night playing South Africa," Whitt said.

Why do I miss something so banal? Because in the same NY Times article detailing Canada's 8-6 victory over the US on Tuesday -- a big upset -- Team USA Coach Buck Martinez describes his club's reaction by saying:

"It's a very quiet clubhouse," Martinez said after the game. "Guys feel like they got kicked in the stomach."

It reminds me of the Presidential debates, circa 2000, when the only guy with anything different to say wasn't invited on stage.

This is why I went back to baseball after the strike. I need something simple and warm, an intellectual cup of cocoa. "How you feeling?" "Like I just got kicked in the stomach." "Boy howdy, you and me both."

I'm so pleased with the NY Times' reporting, I might even starting going there regularly for my sports news (or my sport news as the BBC World would have it). ESPN only had one kicked-in-the-stomach reference, showing it cares nothing for words and the deeper meaning of things. Though their story on the game did include this reference:

The World Baseball Classic -- (Commissioner Bud) Selig's baby -- could lead to some wonderful marketing opportunities and global talent development down the road. But before Beijing produces a shortstop with Yao Ming-caliber appeal or Yankees T-shirts become the rage in Moscow, life goes on as usual here in the states.

Thing is, I see so much Yankees merchandise over here it makes me sick. You go to Barabashova Market, where you can get anything and everything at one of the hundreds of little stalls and stands, and there are all sorts of NY Yankee caps for sale -- the pull-down kind you wear in the winter. I wouldn't invoke President Reagan's rhetoric and call this The Evil Empire, but you can't find any other baseball merchandise over here. No Sox caps, no Giants shirts. Just Yankees gear.

I miss baseball.

(An excerpt from Reagan's Evil Empire Speech before going: "Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root." For those who remember.)