Thanks to the (er...) classic World Baseball Classic Final last night between Japan and Korea, I've had my first glued-to-the-game sleepless night of 2009. The first of many, I fear. I'm not sure how I actually made it through 2008 (assuming of course that I did). MLBTV (and my addiction to it and worship of it) has changed my life, almost exclusively for the better, unless you count the dark circles under my eyes, and my tendency to start twitching like a breakdancer every day around 2pm. As I write this, there are 12 days, 14 hours and 14 minutes left until MLB Opening Night. I figure if I sleep from now until then, I'll have a chance of seeing 2010.
Except... Well, take Thursday night. The Villanova-Duke tip-off isn't till 2am my time. Admittedly, March Madness is not baseball, but that's just not cricket!
Speaking of which, why can't I get more into some of the exciting English sports, likes darts and bowls, that tend to be played at more civilised hours? (The BBC's coverage of these two major sports is extensive. They're also number one for any sports that involve wheelchairs. If I want to watch the (able-bodied men's) cricket, I need to erect a satellite above my bed.)
Meanwhile, while I'm here, and heavy-eyed, I must say that... Last night's final was spectacular. The standard of baseball. The passion. The sushi rolls that I was chewing in my dreams. All of it was off the radar. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a game that much - just because of the game being played, and not because of my tragic Ray Kinsella type tear-jerking sentimentality about "the game". It also made me think. It goes without saying that the WBC is bigger in every country that isn't the US, than it is in the US, host nation and home of baseball. (Read that sentence back, I promise it makes sense.) About half of Japan and Korea were watching last night's game. And while I'm not faulting the commitment of the Team USA players this time around (they did seem genuinely into it), I am questioning the attitude of the US to the world at large.
So here's my new theory: I reckon the United States has become terrified of competition. The reason the US is not interested in any international competitions - only in its domestic competitions - is because it's scared of getting beat (which it tends to do, incidentally) by other nations. Notice how the only time the US public seems to show any interest in US involvement in international competitions is when there's a chance of total domination by a US individual or team. They get pumped about the (NBA) Dream Team or Michael Phelps, or whatever, because they want to watch Americans stomp on the world. The moment there's a threat of getting beaten by fundamentally more sound and less macho, egotistical, self-congratulatory individuals or teams (like Japan and Korea in the baseball) they don't tune in, and pretend it doesn't matter.
It does matter. The WBC really does matter. The rest of the world treats it like the World Cup (of football). The passion and intensity is that high. But look at how the US feels about the World Cup. It shrugs with disinterest. I used to think there were a lot of reasons for this, but now I think it's just because Americans are pussies. They're scared of getting beat. It's like if England never played cricket against Australia or the Windies or India or Seffrica. We do, and we regularly get our arses whomped. But then we stand up straight, dust ourselves down, before bending over again for another beating.
There is of course absolutely no political comment of any kind hidden in this message. None at all.
UPDATE: To all those who've been in contact, threatening to come round and pummel my ass, I should say in my defence that:
a) I love baseball.
b) My girlfriend is American.
c) She's yours, if you refrain from pummelling my ass.
d) I've had no sleep.
e) I never mentioned Vietnam.
f) Some other things.