Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sadness, Awesomeness, Random Awesomeness in Video Form

-First and most importantly, The Common Man is very saddened to learn of the death of John Brittain, one of the driving forces behind The Hardball Times as well as other sites. John has been a terrific source of snark regarding the business of baseball (stadium deals in particular), and was continually frustrated by his beloved Blue Jays. Maury Brown, at The Biz of Baseball has a wonderful post up about the man, his struggles, his spirit, and his talent. Condolences to John's wife and daughters, and though The Common Man never met him, I feel like I've lost a friend.

-The Common Man has spent the day convelescing and recovering from a nasty virus (thanks to The Boy starting daycare full-time) and an awesome WBC Championship game that went deep into the wee hours the night before. Really, The Common Man could watch 162 straight South Korea vs. Japan games and be a happy man. The two teams play so fluidly, and seem to really match up to one another well. It was a thrilling contest from beginning to end, and it's 4 hours flew by.

-In particular, the sublime 5th inning featured remarkable moment after moment. After leading off the top half with a walk and a single off of former MLBer Jung Bong (still one of the greatest names of all time), Japan looked poised to break the game open. But Hyun Wook Jong came in and fired gas at the Japanese, striking out Kenji Johjima, then getting a strike-out/throw-out double play with Michihiro Ogasuwaru at the plate to get out of the jam. Shin-Soo Choo homered to deep left-center to lead off the bottom half against Hisashi Iwakuma and tied the score, amping up the intensity of the contest to 11. And when Young Min Ko looked to ignite the Koreans further by stretching a single, Japanese leftfielder Seiichi Uchikawa made one of the best all-around outfield plays The Common Man had ever seen. Getting quickly to the ball down the LF line, Uchikawa slid to cut the ball off, back-handed it, popped up, and unloaded a strike to second base. The throw, if The Common Man is being honest, was just a hair late. But the play was close enough that the runner was called out, made possible by a beautiful effort. The Common Man can't find video of the play to embed, but has a link that you can use here.

-Of course, the next inning, The Common Man thought Korean CF Yong-Kyu Lee was dead after he was caught trying to steal second. As you can see in the above video, Lee's helmet crumples against the Japanese shortstop's knee, and then explodes. The force with which Lee must have been moving was incredible, and it's lucky he didn't suffer a severe head or spinal injury. Hell, Corey Koskie fell down two years ago, and he still can't get on the field (a story that made The Common Man exceedingly sad, by the way).

-That The Common Man has to wait another four years to watch the Japanese and Koreans go at it full-tilt is incredibly disappointing. The three year cycle seemed more proper to The Common Man, especially if Major League Baseball wants to build on the momentum of what has been a wildly successful Classic.

-Oh sure, The Common Man has heard and read the complaints from bloggers and pundits who decry the WBC and its flaws. Indeed, the timing proved somewhat troublesome, with the final three games falling on the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And perhaps Americans didn't fall quite as in love with its nationalist nature as Bud Selig and Tommy Lasorda were hoping. But its successes, which far outweigh the failures, suggest that tweaking the format and timing is better than drastically revamping the formula.

One of the most frustrating things to deal with is the notion that something you may enjoy, or want very much to enjoy, is not actually intended for you. This is something that the American media seems to miss about the WBC. Hey, Jason Stark! Sorry you can't get into the tourney, dude, and that's nice that you've got your own special proposal all ready to go. But dude, this tournament is not supposed to cater to you. Or to The Common Man. Or to the average Red Sox fan. It's aim is global, not local.

Rather than laud it for what it does (spread goodwill toward the game and MLB internationally, make gobs of money internationally, provide a more exciting and popular alternative spectacle to Spring Training that fans can watch nationally (as opposed to sporadic local broadcasts of spring exhibitions), provide live sports in a relatively dead time in the professional sporting calendar, and (perhaps) provide a showcase for potential future major leaguers), columnists and bloggers and talking-heads pick it apart because it isn't as good as the regular season or because there is no absolutely perfect time to play it or because there is a chance that their stars will get hurt (as if Chipper's oblique strain wasn't likely to result from working out with his Braves, given the aches and pains he's developed in recent years) in something so low as an exhibition (and what, pray tell, are Spring Training games???).

Look, The Common Man is not saying the tournament doesn't need some tweaks. But before anybody starting talking about altering the fundamental structure of the tournament, keep in mind how incredibly profitable it has been (in every sense of the word), and how baseball has been able to pull this off without significantly angering any of the other professional leagues who could short-circuit their efforts. Indeed, as Japan and Korea have proved, a WBC without them would not be legitimate. Attendance was up. Television ratings were way up. International television ratings were Super Bowl-esque. All The Common Man is saying is that it can take time to build a fan base for something so awesome. Lest America not learn the lessons of Firefly, an awesome show doomed before its time because many viewers (and Fox executives) didn't get it right away, it will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of Firefly. Let this grow and flourish and America will come around...eventually.

-Speaking of tweaking the formula, the drama of this last game was incredibly high, and much of that comes from the semi-finals and finals being single-elimination rounds. Now, The Common Man appreciated the extra tension, but after spending the first two rounds acknowledging that any pitcher can have a bad (or exceptional) game, and that a single loss shouldn't kill a team's chances by making each of the stanzas double-elimination, it's odd that these last three games had so much riding on them. Again, The Common Man loved the games, but thinks the teams and tournament would have been better served by giving the losing squads a final second chance (or at least making the semi-finals a best-two-of-three affair). Sure, the US and Venezuela may have ended up kicking the ball around the field like they did in their semi-final games this time around, but at least the result would appear more legitimate.

-Finally, speaking of things The Common Man enjoyed watching, feast on the following video by one of The Common Man's elementary school friends. Remember, it's Charades, not Tell Me What I'm Thinking!

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