Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let's play two, times six

Six doubleheaders today and 20 games total makes for one heck of a day for baseball. Surely people will pause to watch that "The" school from Ohio take on USC and maybe flip to NBC for the ongoing train wreck that is Notre Dame football, but it has to be a comfort to know that baseball, sweet baseball, is circumambient in the American sports landscape once again.

The doubleheaders (all times Central):

Blue Jays-Red Sox, 11:35 a.m., 6:05 p.m.
Royals-Indians, 12:05 p.m., 6:05 p.m.
Rays-Yankees, 12:05 p.m., 6:05 p.m.
Braves-Mets, 2:55 p.m., TBD
Tigers-White Sox, 2:55 p.m., TBD
Twins-Orioles, 4:05 p.m., TBD

Now, as much as I enjoy baseball, if these 20 games were played in succession, it may grate on my patience, taking about as long as a cricket match -- which, not coincidentally, is Reason No. 1 why baseball is superior to cricket. If you can hear me across the way, Nige, I'm talking to you. He writes, genially, that:

In America [baseball] was pumped full of testosterone and self-importance and became the modern baseball game - basically rounders, but with the ball thrown so violently as to be all but unhittable, and with lots of burly men dashing around showing off. I can't help but feel that we Brits got the better of the deal. Baseball, when all's said and done, is not cricket.

It doesn't matter to me that the earliest mention of baseball may have come from England -- long have I and others stopped caring that Abner Doubleday wasn't the sport's inventor, and that it didn't happen in Cooperstown -- but I will have to respectfully disagree that cricket (or rounders, for that matter) is somehow better than America's pastoral sport. I'll spare you my list of ethnocentric reasons and instead point you to this Yahoo! message thread titled, "Who thinks here that cricket sucks!![exclamation marks elided]?" Oh, America: you embarrass me sometimes.

As far as England's (okay, the world's) national sport -- which descended from China's ancient game of cuju (recognized by FIFA), which you can see played in John Woo's recently released epic Red Cliffs and in this WSJ video -- I'll have to agree with the anonymous commenter from Nige's blog: too much flopping. It's sickly, man: grown adults pretending to cry because someone nudged them. And it wouldn't be so bad if the flops weren't so potentially consequential: the spirit of entire nations rides on soccer results, and when matches are decided by an act of ungentlemanly deceit, it debauches the entire sport and makes its participants into pampered, slick, epicene schoolboys who need a good kick in the arse. In short, it's enough to make you seethe with riotous anger.

I've always thought flopping in soccer should be a retrospectively punishable act, but in some parts of the world -- South America comes to mind -- a good flopper actually gets praised for his showmanship. You get baseball players on the soccer pitch and a flop will be met with a kick to the sternum. God do I hope so.

I'm growing dangerously close to a rant about how Cristiano Ronaldo is the man I would most want to kill in a bar fight, so I'll wrap it up. Just one question for our friends across the Atlantic, however: why is it that teams in European English are modified with the plural form of the verb "be," as in, "England are ranked just above Antarctica at the moment but are expected to improve." Shouldn't "England" refer to the team, singular, of England, as opposed to the collection of individuals comprising the team? Didn't you guys invent this language deal?

POSTSCRIPT: 22-2. Count us among those who never thought Cliff Lee and Cy Young could be uttered nonironically in the same breath.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Sam Mellinger gives a reasonable account for why Kila Ka'aihue isn't playing more.

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