Tagged: Soccer

Not Exactly Apples and Oranges

usa_soccer.jpgI didn’t watch a whole lot of baseball this weekend.  No, despite the inevitable outcry about how boring it is I spent the weekend watching soccer. 

More than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I started to wonder why baseball fans don’t enjoy it more.  Both sports tend to end in low-scoring affairs.  There are some matches that get blown wide open but for the most part, there are a lot of near misses and defensive stand-offs. 

Both sports require an intelligent caretaker.  Yes, you need to have the right personnel to execute the coach’s plan but management is integral to the two games.  When a goal is scored in soccer, the ESPN highlight tends to show only the moment itself.  But that moment is usually the culmination of several minutes of slowly building action.  A good manager notices where the weaknesses are and then has his team exploit those advantages. 

It’s not really all that much different than a baseball manager noticing the opposing pitcher taking a little bit longer in his windup and sending a guy who isn’t much of a base stealer because that extra half second might be all he needs.  We all know that a guy at second base is a much bigger threat than a guy on first and a soccer player knows that a corner kick is a much bigger threat than a throw in from the sideline.

So much of baseball and soccer is based on a patient strategy being slowly implemented.  Pitchers set up batters during early at-bats just like strikers set up defenders during early runs.

I’m amazed when people tell me how they think baseball is boring.  They tell me they don’t understand the rules and they don’t know how people can sit there and watch it.  Any baseball fan will tell you that every game has a hundred different little dramatic moments.  And likewise I’m amazed when a baseball fan tells me they don’t understand soccer and that it’s boring to watch.  The rules may be different but the drama and the intensity are completely on par.

With the exception of Mexico, the baseball playing world and the soccer playing world exist in two very different spheres.  But it’s time we move beyond that silliness.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even wear my team USA jersey this weekend when I go watch Strasburg pitch.  USA!  USA!  USA!!!



The Filibuster

holy+cow.jpgA few weeks ago Milton Bradley very publicly decried the racist
comments hurled at him from the bleachers at Wrigley.  But since he
wouldn’t give specifics the press has been having a field day, claiming
he’s making it all up.  It blows my mind how blind they are.  I’m no
fan of Milton’s, but you can’t walk through Wrigleyville without seeing
someone in a “Pujols Mows My Lawn” shirt, or those famous “Horry Kow!”
Fukudome shirts.  I think in this case he’s absolutely right, and the
press would rather continue to crap all over the guy than grudgingly
admit that he has a point.

Chicago, IL


As much as soccer is the world’s game, baseball is still America’s game. And as games and culture tend to do, it reflects much about a nation’s character. If you watch soccer you know that the Germans play a very methodical game much like the methodical German people. Same goes for the “beautiful game” played by the Brazilians.

But what does this recent statement from Milton Bradley say about the state of our nation? Well, if you paid attention at all during the Presidential race last year, you know that Ted and Milton definitely have a point.

The state of race relations in this country has not come all that far since the times of the king of the racists, Ty Cobb, or Jackie Robinson’s first foray across the color lines. We may pretty it up these days with Rainbow coalitions and politically correct buzz-words but the fact of the matter is, there has never been an actual, frank discussion about race in this country despite what we’d like to lead ourselves to believe. As much as it pains me to say it, Cubs’ fans are not the problem. They’re nothing more than a symptom of the problem.

It’s not exactly the same thing but this reminds me of being in Wrigleyville a couple years ago late at night. I was walking with a few guys and there had definitely been some drinking going on. As we walked to find a cab, some thin young guy came hurrying down the street toward us and one of the guys in the group jumped at him and then started harassing him, calling him “f@g” this and “f@g” that. This poor guy was scared sh!tless and the rest of us were too stunned to even say anything. Finally someone pulled the guy from our group away and he looked around at us like it was the funniest thing ever. As the guy who had been getting harassed walked away as quickly as possible, the rest of us just stared at this d0uchebag standing there obliviously with a huge grin on his face, all of us still shocked at what had happened.

And again, it’s symptomatic. Racism and homophobia come from the same place and the fact that neither one has ever been dealt with directly in this country means that it will continue to go on. Whether or not someone said what Milton says he heard is not the point. The fact that we really shouldn’t be surprised that it happened is.


Why We Love LaTroy Hawkins

latroy hawkins.jpgThere was a time when LaTroy Hawkins acted as a personal savior of mine; because I knew the minute he came into a ballgame wearing that Cubs uniform, the chances of them losing took an astronomical leap.  While those days may be over — and the nomination of the world’s worst reliever has shifted to the awkwardly clumsy Kyle Farnsworth — I am happy to report that LaTroy Hawkins has given me yet another reason to worship him.

During Monday night’s game against the Cubs — as an Astro — Hawkins verbally and physically questioned the merits of homeplate umpire Mike Everitt, which eventually got him tossed.  Since then, Hawkins has suffered from a severe case of logorrhea and has had no problem jawing out at Everitt.  Now, Major League Baseball is investigating the incident.

“I have my own opinion, and he had his opinion,” he [Hawkins] said.  “He [Everitt] thought I was showing him up.  I saw Alex Rodriguez do way worse when I was in the American League.  He undressed the umpire.  Whatever he said, it was in his face.  It’s America.”

You’re damn right, LaTroy!  It is America!  It’s US America and I don’t care who you are — Alex Rodriguez or not — one should never be allowed to undress the umpire.  Who does this Rodriguez fella think he is anyway?  Some pretty boy poster child for Details magazine?  What a pompous sicko!

We applaud you, LaTroy, for saying what we were all thinking and going after the bad guys behind the plate.

And in the future, LaTroy, instead of getting into a war of words — a war that is rarely won by a journeyman reliever — you may want to follow the stellar example set by Chinese professional athletes and just pulverize your enemy:

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.



The Filibuster

Africa_Baseball.JPGSo far the 2009 World Baseball Classic has provided plenty of
nail-biting drama, including upsets by the Netherlands, Italy and
Australia, proving the magnitude of baseball’s global potential.  In
recent years the NBA has had success in sending the message of its game
worldwide and to some degree, so has the NFL.  Realistically speaking,
does baseball have a shot at becoming a truly universal sport and is it
premature to think that little kids in London might some day replace
the soccer ball with a baseball?

— Jeff


In many ways the WBC is like any other tournament. You get your share of upsets and surprises and there’s always some sort of Cinderella story. But, at the end of the day, the teams that are supposed to win usually do. Look at the run the Americans made in this year’s Classic, edging out Canada with some late inning heroics and treating Venezuela like Hugo Chavez treats the rule of law. But, when it came down to it. They faltered against Venezuela the second time around and then embarrassed themselves against Puerto Rico. The same thing is going to happen to the Netherlands and other pretenders.

Here’s the thing, though. Calling this exhibition the World Baseball Classic is a misnomer at best and an outright lie at worst. Team Italy? A bunch of American baseball players who happen to have Italian last names. Same thing with with the Dutch. Actual baseball does not exist on the European continent nor does it have any role in the sporting lives of millions of Africans and billions of Indians (with the exception of Rinku and Dinesh). Even in the Americas, baseball is far from being the most popular sport and pales in significance to soccer. In its own birthplace, the USA, baseball comes in third behind the NBA and the NFL in terms of popularity.

So, what are its chances of becoming a truly worldwide phenomenon? Somewhere between slim and none and slim is on his way out of the building. There are really two issues here and they happen to be two sides of the same coin.

Number one is the worldwide popularity of soccer and the ease of entry into playing the game. Stuff a sock with some rags and you’ve got yourself a makeshift soccer ball. Offsides can be a somewhat difficult concept at first but the rules are relatively straightforward. If you can get the ball into the goal, you score. It’s that easy. And you can play on a dirt field, the middle of the street or even indoors. Realistically, it’s hard to say that more than half the world’s population can be wrong.

By contrast, baseball is a prohibitively expensive sport, especially when you’re living on less than 2 dollars a day like a majority of the world. At the least, you need a glove, a bat and a ball but none of these are easy to come by. You need a space that’s big enough in which to play and you need enough people to field a couple teams. Once you add in the intricacies of the rulebook and the relative slowness in the speed of play, well, I think it’s safe to say that baseball’s spread has been contained.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the popularity of baseball expand. I think it’s a wonderful way for the US to conduct soft diplomacy. And I think it’s one of the few areas in which we’ve had constructive interaction with Latin America. But, I don’t think it’s very realistic to think it will happen. The competition is too stiff and the barriers to entry are too high.

This isn’t to say that the WBC has no place and that we should give up. It’s great that every few years different countries get a chance to show their skills and it’s particularly fun to see the Cubans emerge from their isolation. But a tri-yearly celebration of international baseball is not going to overcome the incredible headstart that soccer holds, nor is it going to make it possible for a poor kid in Port-au-Prince to get a glove and go play catch with his friends. Unfortunately, that is where the warm fuzzies of the WBC run smack into the cold, hard truths of real life.


RSBS Presents: Your Health

A lot of baseball action seems to be focused on the crotch. There isn’t a game that goes by without a shot of some infielder adjusting his cup and let’s be honest, it’s hard to blame them. I mean, it may be one of the most uncomfortable pieces of equipment ever made. But it’s also essential when balls are flying at you at speeds well over a hundred miles per hour. And even with that guard in place, it doesn’t mean that getting hit feels good. Speaking as a guy, I cringe anytime I see a video with a skateboarder doing the splits around a hand rail and I don’t like skateboarders.

However, there are different degrees of crotch related injuries. In the interest of public service RSBS brings you a guide to crotch injuries.

First Degree Crotch Related Injury

The first degree and the least fatal is seen demonstrated here by Alex Rodriguez for Ozzie Guillen. It is commonly referred to as “minor self-inflicted” or in more vulgar terminology as “digging a little too deep to kill those d@mn crabs.”

Second Degree Crotch Related Injury

This type of injury is known as the “semi-major non self-inflicted” although it often has the potential to be even worse than the third category. This type of injury happens from time to time in baseball but usually only as a result of a collision or an errant throw. A football related demonstration is included here:

CrotchShot.jpgOne of the more famous examples of this type of injury can be seen demonstrated by Wayne Rooney while playing for England’s soccer team. At about the 40 second mark you can see the act in all it’s glory:

Third Degree Crotch Related Injury

The final category is officially called the “major self-inflicted” but is commonly known as the “Dude, you are such a dumb@ss” injury. The previously mentioned skateboarding injuries fit into this category as do many rollerblading and “free-style walking” related injuries. However, the most recent and most famous of this type of injury came to us just a few days ago courtesy of “The Boss” himself. It may not have been a wardrobe malfunction and it may not have garnered a fine but I don’t think Mr. Springsteen is going to be making any babies in the near future:

Anyway, that wraps up this edition of RSBS Presents: Your Health. Let’s keep those privates protected.



Stellar and Interstellar Development

Oh man. Can I tell you how much I love that minor league tirade? This guy just understands that bigger is better. And the thing is, if they’re going to toss you, you might as well make it worth it. Why kick dirt when you can throw a base? Why toss your hat when you can toss the entire contents of the dugout? That is the reason why I love America.

And I also love America because of college sports. In general, NCAA football and basketball provide much more drama and interest than do their professional counterparts. Yeah, that’s a factless, baseless blanket statement but my name is on this blog so I can write that. However, most other major college sports pale in comparison to their older brothers. Nowhere is this more true than baseball. Quick, tell me who won the College World Series last year? Yeah, I didn’t think so. And who won tonight’s CWS finale? No one cares. And there’s a reason for that.

Unlike football and basketball, there’s a different route to the pros for baseball players. It’s a much more (dare I say?) European system of small feeder clubs nurturing talent at different levels in order to prepare them for the big leagues. Like the big European club soccer teams do in Africa and Brazil, MLB constantly scours the developing world, trying to get an edge by finding hot new talent in some Latin American backwater. Then, they throw them into the minor league crockpot, set it to simmer and see how it all turns out.

jeter_draft.jpgEven homegrown talent is developed in a similar fashion. Do people get excited for a Derek Jeter to head off to the University of Michigan for a year before turning pro? No. He signs with the Yankees and they develop him in their minor league affiliates before bringing him up to the parent organization. So, if no exciting players show up in college baseball, why should we care about the sport?

Simply put, we shouldn’t. At least in college basketball or football, we get to see guys play for one or two years before they head off. Syracuse doesn’t win the 2003 NCAA basketball championship without Carmelo but that was all they got from him. Similarly, Ohio State doesn’t beat Miami in 2002 Fiesta Bowl without Maurice Clarett but that didn’t stop him from heading straight to the NFL (although his life since has been somewhat less than stellar).

So, should we care about this inequity in the sporting system and does it really matter? It seems pretty obvious that the different sports need different systems. Football and, to a lesser extent, basketball are homegrown sports that rely on colleges to develop players and provide them with greater exposure before they begin their professional careers. Baseball, like soccer, is a more international game and so the collegiate development system just doesn’t work. It’s unfortunate for fans of the game but when there are already so many MLB teams playing 162 games a year, the allure of collegiate baseball just seems unimportant. In the end, these systems, kind of like the American primary election system, seem to have fundamental flaws. But, when you consider the alternatives, I guess we’re doing a pretty good job.


Walk of Shame

You all know what I’m talking about: the morning after a long night out, you wake up in a strange bed with someone whose name you didn’t quite catch.  Quietly, as not to wake said stranger, you put on the same sweaty, rank clothes you wore the night before.  Your back hurts and your leg is numb.  The taste in your mouth is probably what the inside of an ashtray inside a toilet inside a Taco Bell might taste like and your hair is sticking up on one side and you have strange cuts on your face that weren’t there before and there is a loud thumping in your head and now you have to find the front door and make a discrete exit only to face a bright, loud sunlight that makes hiding absolutely impossible. 

That’s what I’ve felt like all day (sans the stranger and her strange bed; see this link as to why those two are not in this real life catastrophe) as the White Sox got swept by the Cubs in part one of the Windy City (or Crosstown) Classic.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to all of those US Americans who wrote me emails, called me and texted me over the weekend just to make my life miserable, to pour ketchup in my canker sores, to ridicule me and chide me for my pain.  I must especially thank you, Laura, for providing me with the proper instructions for killing myself.  Had I not had a Tombstone pizza in the oven, I probably would’ve followed them. 

Seriously though, I really appreciate the sentimental salutations — mean and cruel as they were — that I received from everyone. 

Now I hope you all die.

That’s not true.  I don’t hope you die.  I mean, yes, you will die — someday — but I won’t have anything to do with it.  That I promise.  Don’t feel bad.  I will die too.  It will probably be on the #8/Halsted or #62/Archer bus.  If you don’t hear from me for a while, check the Metro section of the Tribune for ‘tragic bus accidents caused by irresponsible paparazzi chasing a self-promoting, egotistical MLBlogger’.

Back to the series, the best part of this weekend was that I wasn’t in Chicago for the melee.  No.  I was on a farm in the middle of nowhere hanging out with good friends, which included about 20 Romanian nationals intent on getting me to play soccer, eat loads of garlic and listen to Madonna.  Apparently (and this is straight from the Romanians’ mouths) these are the three Romanian national pastimes — in that order — and there is no deviating from them (*note: drinking is an integral part of each pastime.  In fact, drinking is an integral part of everything Romanian).  So, I did what I do best: I fit in.

romanian_soccer.jpgI played soccer (got my ^ss kicked).

I ate a ton of garlic (you can probably still smell it through the interweb).

I listened to a lot of Madonna (Hard Candy is awesome… and so is the new album).

hard_candy_madonna.jpgBut like all good things, Romaniafest had to end and once back in the Chi, there was no hiding from the shame and despair we Southsiders were made to endure.  That being said, I am thankful that I missed seeing the series in person.  Apparently, the usual suspects (Cub fans) were up to no good and I can only imagine what type of trouble would’ve found me.  As you all know, I’m a sucker for basebrawls. 

The Buddha taught: “Life is suffering.”  Without knowing agony, pain and destruction firsthand, how can one ever really know what happiness feels like?  The same goes for the flipside, which explains why Cub fans born after 1908 (almost all of them now) don’t really know what real misery is; they’ve never felt happiness.

Sucks to be them.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.