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I'm So Bored with the
2002-10-25 11:03
by Mike Carminati

I'm So Bored with the U.S.A. (But What Can I Do?)

Here is an exchange between a British reader and myself. Cheers.

Isn't baseball just rounders with helmets?

I really don't know enough about it, I admit. But I have been to a game in Chicago, and to honest, I got really bored.

Kids play rounders at school in England which have the same rules, but that stops at about eleven, and they move onto a proper sport. Apols to all those fans, but have any of you even seen the rest of the worlds [sic] version? One day cricket is much more exciting. Batters don't just get 3 swings every 2 hours. They stay in until they are out just once, and thats their part in the game over. In my opinion 10 or 12 small innings dont [sic] build up any tension, (Baseball batters must just think, well I'll get another go in an hour or so, so whats the big deal if I'm out) where one innings each side means just that. In cricket, individuals in games can turn them on their own, and become major heros [sic], rather than your watered down version - One hit wonders.

I won't go on too much about your hilariously named World Series. (oh .. my sides..) Suffice to say, do you really think the rest of the worlds sport loving population really thinks naming a competion [sic] the World Series, and then playing it in the US, amongst US club teams is slightly ironic? Why isn't it the American Series or US Series? Perhaps then the major cricket playing nations (Austrailia [sic], New Zealand, England, Pakistan, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sri Lanka, The majority of The West Indies, even Scotland and Japan) wouldn't laugh at you quite as much. Apols, The above bracketed words may look like gobbledigook [sic] to you, but they are infact [sic] other countries in the world.

Apols for the cheap jibe.

Keep a stiff upper lip old boy. I await a suitably versed and presented rant!


My repartee:

Hi Ned

Cheers and thanks for the email. I'll choose not to respond to the perceived hubris contained therein and rather chalk it up to cultural differences. A rant but perhaps not a proper cheeky slagging off shall now ensue sans references to "bollocks" or "sticky wickets". I hope I don't cheese you off.

In fact, you are correct: baseball is the grandson of rounders. It developed during America's Revolutionary War days (apols for the reference) into kids games called town ball and cat o'nine tails and finally into base ball (yes, two words). There were two versions, "The Massachusetts Game" based on square, and "The New York Game" based an a tilted square or "diamond", which beat out its Neanderthaloid brother. Contrary to the promulgated history, early practitioners were urban middle class working men usually organized by professions who were desirous of a retreat to the country for relaxation and exercise. These men's clubs would hold opulent banquets to fete their opponents before and after games (the precedents for such actions are explained by sociologist Marvin Harris' works like "Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches: The Riddles of Culture").

As play improved, teams started providing jobs to individuals based solely on their baseball prowess. Originally, a good deal of these men were converted cricket players who were mostly countrymen of yours. This lead to professional teams, then professional leagues, and Bob's your uncle, baseball organizations with developmental leagues, advanced scouts, amateur drafts, and the World Series.

The name "World Series" (apols to your sides) came about in 1903 to give baseball's championship a bigger-than-life title. It was not meant to offend the rest of the world but rather to express the exuberance of what was at the time a somewhat isolationist country finally entering the world stage. There was also a good deal of interest at the time at exporting the game around the globe and this was maybe a misguided means of doing so. The Chicago White Stockings toured the world a decade before playing in Egypt (with requisite team snaps on the Sphinx), England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Australia.

Anyway, that is the title and we are stuck with it. It may finally becoming a reality as players from most of central and South America, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Curacao (see we have atlases in the states too), The Philippines, and Aruba are now represented. It's not the UN, but the best players in the world are in the American major leagues. The poorer American players are jettisoned and usually wind up dominating the Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean professional leagues. Perhaps, in that sense the title "World Series" does fit.

As far as your attendant ennui in attending to a game, all I can say is that the game requires a good deal of understanding of and appreciation for its innerworkings--the battle between the batter and the pitcher, the positioning of the defense, and various strategies to gain an advantage. That cannot be conveyed in an email: it must be witnessed. I can't convince you of the game's merits. All I can do is recommend that you give it another chance (at least on the telly) and try to become more familiar with its complexities.

You mention cricket and there are a lot of parallels between the two sports. However, Americans (me included, and yes, I have witnessed cricket) find cricket to be far too long and open-ended. I have had British and Indian friends within whom I have discussed basic cricket strategy, and I find it to be much less challenging than baseball, but that is with my admittedly limited knowledge of the game. This is our basic problem with soccer or, as you would refer to it, football. I do feel that the constrictions (like limiting the number of swings, the length of an inning, not awarding 6 runs for a decent hit, etc.) implicit in baseball, of which you speak, add to the tension. Every rule change and what I'll call improvement over baseball's history has been made in an attempt to better the game.

By the way, much in the way that you describe British children outgrowing rounders and moving on to the so-called proper sports, assuming soccer would be one of those, American children move from soccer to more edifying sports such as baseball. There may be an implicit progression there but I may not be the proper person to speak to that.



Better than an episode of Benny Hill, huh?

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