Although I probably should be watching baseball, I find myself oddly enthralled by the Olympics. Ichiro’s chops as a Yankee? Nah, I think I’ll watch some women’s badminton instead. Fister putting a brief stop to the Tiger’s road woes? Hm, I guess I’m going to go for some ping-pong (table tennis, if you want to be stuffy about it). Rivalry weekend in America? Nope, women’s skeet shooting.
I’m not saying I’d want to watch these games all the time. I love women’s gymnastics as much as the next guy but I can only take so much of it. But at the same time, there’s something special about the Olympics. For instance, yesterday I was watching a British dude named Paul Drinkhall advance to the third round in men’s table tennis.
First of all, his name is “Drinkhall.” How awesome is that? That’s like a German guy named “Biergarten.” Or an American named “Applebees.” Second, this dude has little or no muscle tone, pasty white skin, horrible shorts and an equally terrible haircut but he’s an Olympic athlete. That, my friends, is badass. Badass in the same way as David Wells and his Churchillian physique somehow destroying opposing batters.
I freely admit that a lot of it is the novelty. It’s hard for the 162-game slog of baseball to compete with the instant gratification of a Moroccan/Uzbek flyweight boxing match. And once the new “Dream Team” really get’s going, baseball is going to find it tough going. I guess it’s kind of like the guy who has always sworn that he’d never leave his frumpy but faithful wife but somehow finds himself behind the wheel of a convertible with his 24-year old secretary. Sure, it’s cheating but really, what were you supposed to do? Odds like those don’t come up everyday.
So, I’d like to say that this was just a weekend thing and tomorrow I’ll be back to MLB. But we all know I’m lying. Can you blame me though? I mean, seriously, synchronized diving!!!
If you were to build the ideal baseball player, you probably wouldn’t come up with Dustin Pedroia. He’s too small and he just doesn’t look like how a ballplayer should look. Likewise, you probably wouldn’t come up with CC Sabathia either. Dude has a huge gut and looks like a whale.
Most likely, if you were constructing the ideal baseball player, you’d come up with someone like Kyle Farnsworth, all six-and-a-half worthless feet of him. Of course, you’d also then be saddled with his contract and seemingly uncanny ability to melt down in important games.
So why is it that Farnsworth is an object of ridicule (at least here at RSBS) while Pedroia is a former MVP and Sabathia is one of the most consistently good pitchers in baseball? Well, it’s the same reason that Jeremy Lin happened in the US of A and could never happen in China. It’s the intangibles that make athletes great and if there’s one thing that we do well in America, it’s the intangibles.
You can have your Yao Mings and your Kyle Farnsworths. Me, I’ll take my Cecil Fielders and David Wells. And I bet you ten yuan I’ll win.
Until recently, the only thing the French had on us was their seeming inability to accept obesity. This was a good thing. Not only has America become fat, we’ve also decided to accept it. Don’t take this the wrong way. I still fully support American attempts to inject bacon or bacon flavoring into any and every thing. However, that doesn’t mean you need to sit around all day and let the grease coagulate in your veins.
This difference exists in part at a cultural level. For instance, American sports tend to celebrate obesity, whether it be literal or clinical. Although I love the guy and wish he could have been on the Tigers at some point, David Wells didn’t exactly seem like someone who ever matched up the idea of “baseball” with that of “conditioning.” And although it’s easy to see the extra weight a 300-pound lineman is carrying, even running backs and linebackers tend to be obese by clinical definitions.
In contrast, think of the typically French sports or sports where they have done well. Soccer, rugby, sex. These ideas may be completely foreign to us but the one thing they all have in common is lots of cardio. Even the more sedentary French sports, like boules and drinking wine, tend to have unforeseen positive health impacts.
So why is it that even the French are now celebrating being overweight? Ok, maybe she isn’t fat but I like my models the same way I like my crepes: thin and slathered in Nutella. If we can’t count on the French to enforce these standards, where else can we go?
I think more than anything I’m just afraid that the French will become so much like us that we’ll no longer be able to make fun of them. That is not a world I want to live in. Who would we turn to for our jokes? Canadians? They’re too nice. No, I want a world that makes sense, a world where the French inspire simultaneous hatred and jealousy. Take note, France. This plus-size model thing? It simply will not do.
In the past few days two pitchers with the same kind of heart but very different skill levels achieved notoriety from very different results. Since we here at RSBS try not to judge, we won’t say that one did better than the other. But we will say that both brought a smile to our faces.
Dallas Braden was the main story, of course, with his nine innings of perfection. He’s no David Wells and that’s probably a good thing. And he’s still known as the guy who told off A-Rod. But he’s also the guy who no-hit the hottest team in baseball.
Meanwhile, in another ball park not so far away, minor leaguer Rojo Johnson attempted to come back after a rough life that saw him spend some time in the cooler. The results, although not unexpected, probably weren’t all that he had hoped for……or maybe they were. We’ll let you be the judge:
Looks like he might have been channeling Nolan Ryan there for a second. I think we can all get behind that.
I grew up in a very Christian house and I remember being tickled pink whenever one of my sports heroes would thank god after a big win. Every Lions fan knew that Barry Sanders and JC were tight. One of my earliest baseball memories is Frank Tanana on TV thanking the big guy for helping him win the game that clinched the division and got the Tigers into the 1987 ALCS with the Twins.
But I started to wonder a few years ago: How come god plays favorites like that? I mean, why did he help out Tanana that afternoon but then totally leave the Tigers hanging out to dry in the actual playoffs? Were the Twins fans just praying harder?
Finally I realized that it has nothing to do with god at all. If Dave Dravecky and Orel Hershiser, two incredibly (some might say fanatically) devout Christians, pitched against each other, god didn’t magically flip a coin and decide which one of his children would win and which would lose. Either they made their pitches and got run support or they lost.
I guess my point is that I’d like to see us get beyond all of this. Tim Tebow didn’t win a national championship for Florida because Jesus came down and guided his passes. He won because he spent hours on the field and in the weight room preparing for those games. I’m guessing Tanana did the same thing. In fact, if there’s anything that should make you wonder about the possibility of divine intervention, consider David Wells. How that man can launch that girth out of bed every morning, much less throw a perfect game, is the only evidence of miracles that I’ve ever seen.
Very few pursuits allow for perfection. In bowling, there’s the 300 game but how much of that has to do with luck? Football quarterbacks can post a perfect passer rating but that usually still involves incompletions which is far from perfect in my book. And let’s be honest, when you’re forced to define perfection by a mathematical formula, how perfect is it really? (No offense to any of the mathematicians out there, obviously.)
But in baseball, perfection exists. And when Mark Buehrle hit the mound the other day, we got to see it. There were tense moments and some great plays that made it happen. But it was perfection.
The most amazing thing about perfection is how it’s a snapshot in time. No one is going to achieve perfection over the course of a season. No batter is going to get a hit every time he’s at the plate, no pitcher is going to avoid giving up a hit during every outing. The reason that perfection appeals to us is because it happens so rarely.
Some of this sentiment also plays into the betrayal many have felt at the hands of various players who used PEDs. I still remember the summer when Sosa and McGwire were racing for the home run crown and how astounding it was to watch them rack up those totals. They made the extraordinary ordinary. And when Bonds came along and shattered those records, it almost became mundane. We came to expect these kinds of feats and now we’re disappointed by their absence, a problem similar to what swimming is now facing with the ban on many of the new suit technologies. No one wants to ride in coach after they’ve experienced first class.
But the perfect game stands out because it is one of those things that is still so rare. Clemens may have been juicing and he may have been a dominant pitcher but that never earned him perfection. Nolan Ryan threw seven no-hitters but none of them were perfect. But a guy like David Wells, all 250 plus pounds of him, managed to do it.
Possibly the best part of Buehrle’s perfect game, though, is the time in which it came. This season has been marked so far by Manny’s suspension, A-Rod’s admission and several mediocre divisional races. It’s only fitting that the thing that takes our minds off of the mediocrity and failure……is perfection.
As a fan, one of the most difficult parts of spring training is watching your team show up and wondering who’s going to be disgustingly out of shape and how they’re possibly going to get ready in time for the season opener. If you had David Wells reporting, you didn’t worry so much because somehow that extra weight and general aura of deep-fryer fat that emanated from him was soothing. However, when you’re a Tigers fan and Miguel Cabrera is showing up soon, you worry.
It appears that worry is misplaced, though. Not only did Cabrera show up early, he apparently has dispatched that aura of mediocrity that shadowed him throughout the beginning of last season. Fantasy Baseball blogs are touting him as one of the top first basemen and despite his slow start last season and the lack of offensive output from the Tigers as a whole, he still ended up having a career year.
However, when it comes to crap-tastic auras, there is one man who surely takes the cake. That’s right, long-time friend of RSBS, Bud Selig, was back in the news today. See, Selig wants us to know that when the steroid snafu went down, he wasn’t playing Nero and fiddling while Rome burned like we all thought. No, he was trying to sniff out the problem, attempting to stomp out the fire before it exploded into the conflagration that now rages in front of us. And of course we know this is true because the story comes from a source on the inside, from a trustworthy someone named, uh, let me see here, Bud Selig. Huh. That seems kind of weird.
We here at RSBS have often called out Mr. Selig on his general ineptitude and obvious mismanagement of the great American pastime. His ham-fisted attempts at regulation, be it contract negotiation or drug-testing, have only served to intensify the disparities in baseball. But, I think it’s about time we took this to the next level. If Mr. Selig were a dirigible, he’d be the Hindenburg. If he were a world leader of the past century, he’d be Neville Chamberlain. If Mr. Selig were a song, he’d be sung by Carly Simon. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sure he’d fire a manager for less. He’s an unapologetic and unmitigated disaster and it’s time for him to go.