Tuesday, March 24, 2009

World Baseball Classic final: awesome

LOS ANGELES -- If you could hear yourself think at Dodger Stadium Monday -- and such an ordinary task became a downright challenge amid the 54,846 flag-waving, drum-beating, thunderstick-whacking, whistle-blowing, aisle-dancing zealots as Japan battled Korea in a final straight out of 1960s Americana -- what you understood was that the World Baseball Classic grew bigger and better in its second incarnation. An acquired taste for smug Americans, the party goes on in 2013 whether America wants to resist it or not, not unlike the soccer World Cup.
--Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

On one side you have the naysayers, including many Major League Baseball general managers and inane national columnists like Gene Wojciechowski who have mastered the art of thinking small.

On the other you have the people who know and like baseball, including the actual participants.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's read this blog whose side I'm on. My two cents:

Why is there even a debate?

The term "provincialist" has been used as a popular put-down for non-supporters, but I don't think we need to resort to name-calling. I've implied it before but I'll make it clear now: for Americans who can't see or understand the allure of the WBC and its impact on international baseball -- not to be confused with "international tournaments"; I'm talking about professional baseball leagues in Japan, Korea, Cuba, etc., and baseball fans in countries around the world -- I say, Too bad.

It's too bad you didn't think it worth your time to watch baseball players slide so hard into second they'd crack their helmets in the front and the back.

It's too bad you don't like rivalries, especially ones seeped so deep in world history it'd be fair to call last night's game one of those "transcendent" sporting events.

It's too bad you don't like watching ninth-inning rallies, and stars shine at just the right moments, and managers second-guessed, and celebrations worthy of a parade.

It's just too bad.

I don't need to rehash the arguments for the WBC, such as how injuries can happen in spring training, players can use preparation for the WBC as an excuse to not be lazy in January, etc., nor do I want to copy and paste large portions of Verducci's column about the WBC's impact in other countries (please just read it; I will say he mentioned the Royals: "The interest was not confined to the Pacific Rim. The 39 WBC games drew an average of 20,549 fans per game -- making the WBC, on average, a better draw than three major league franchises: the Royals, Pirates and Marlins. The WBC drew seven crowds in excess of 40,000 -- more than the Marlins, Nationals, Royals, Indians, White Sox and Athletics combined in 486 games last year").

I'll just leave it at this: watch this video and tell me you wouldn't have wanted to be in L.A., or whether there was a time Jon Miller and Joe Morgan ever sounded so good.

As for last words, ESPN's Eric Neel can have them:

I didn't see a game so much as a happening, an event in which every moment, from the plays made in the field to the explosive cheers in the stands, felt charged with intense desire and fierce competition.

I hope you saw it too. I hope, like me, what you saw made you think the lingering questions about whether the WBC is here to say seem silly. I hope, like me, what you saw made your worrying and wondering about what happened to Team USA and about why they have failed to win this tournament twice now seem entirely beside the point.

I hope you saw Japan 5, Korea 3 for what it was: A great night of baseball, a great night for baseball.

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