Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2004 /8 Teves, 5764
Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
Baseball Good Medicine?: International Forkball and Split Finger Rotating
Our Way Soon
Why a medical column on baseball at year's end? Well, baseball is very good
medicine for Americans -- normally! Sports let us vent our spleens,
hostilities and frustrations. But wait until 2004. We're going to get the
old international fork ball, split finger and screwball!
There's a fine old German word, Schadenfreude, joy in the sufferings and
misfortunes of others. Locally, Schadenfreude's relatively tame: a 30 mile
backup on the freeway, going in the other guy's direction, for example. But
global Schadenfreude - how they love it when America stumbles - is a
different affair entirely.
No, I'm not talking about the Middle East, Saddam or Osama. The problem is
baseball. We who invented the game, we who gave the world the hissy-fitting
manager, the spitball, the infield fly rule . . . we won't be playing our
game at the 2004 Olympics.
We lost, November 7th, in the qualifying tournament. To Mexico. 2-1. Maybe
nobody's paying much attention now. But next year in Athens, they'll
notice. And we'll notice that they notice. So get ready for a global Bronx
"We lost a game," said Sandy Alderson, an executive vice president in the
Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and the top American
official with the team. "I don't think it's a setback for U.S. baseball. I
think it's a validation of the internationalization of the game." (AP)
Great. Blame it on globalization.
So what went wrong? Frank Robinson, the team's Hall of Fame manager, opined
that "It was a well-pitched game by their pitchers. We were not able to do
much until the ninth inning, and it was not enough." (AP)
Once again, a manager demonstrates his keen grasp of the obvious.
So how did it happen? In 2000, a team managed by Tommy Lasorda took the
gold at Sydney: a team that included pro stars Ben Sheets and Doug
Mientkwiecz. (Professionals are eligible) But where were our professionals
when Mexico took the joy away?
Something's majorly wrong when all these megabucks superstars can't give a
little back to their country. Of course, they have all kinds of excuses:
contracts, injuries, time off from the regular season, agent doesn't like
it, wife won't go, hangnails, whatever. But when you're getting $10,000
every time you throw a 6 ounce ball 60 feet feet, or $20,000 every time you
wave a bat at one of those six ounce jobs - OK, the ball is hard and coming
at you at 95 mph, but that's not the point - you'd think a little gratitude
might be in order.
Not likely. Not in what professional sports have become. Abner Doubleday's
no doubt rotating in his grave over our failure, but so are the ancient
Greeks, who took athletics very seriously. To them, victory indicated the
favor of the gods. To us, victory brings product endorsements. From "Show
Us the Glory" to "Show Me the Money" - a long and not entirely graceful way
down. And when we talk about "sports immortals," well, so did the Greeks.
But they meant it literally.
But enough of this self-pity. What is to be done? Sometime within the next
few decades, the United States will host the Games, and our baseball team
will automatically participate. Until then, we'll have to earn our spot. So
here's what we do.
First, Roger Clemens, who graciously offered to play in 2004, must be kept
from aging. The world must have an opportunity to observe and appreciate
The Rocket's Red Glare.
Second, bring back Tommy Lasorda! In 2000 the U.S. team managed by the
ex-Dodger skipper and Hall-of-Famer Lasorda took the gold at Sydneywith a
team, like this year's, comprised mainly of professional castoffs and Major
Third, make Lasorda's job a lot easier. Get Major League Baseball to follow
the lead of the National Basketball Association in its willingness to have
its stars compete in the Olympics. Baseball balks at the idea because,
unlike with basketball, the Olympics interrupts its season. One equitable
solution might be for the U.S. Olympic Committee to have the right to tap
the services of only one or two willing players from each big league
roster. Think of it as an "amateur draft" in reverse.
Fourth, we need to strengthen our baseball programs at all amateur and
professional levels. We'll do it the American Way, by importing as many
outstanding Latino and Japanese players as we can find!
Finally, we American baseball fans must acclimate to changing global
realities. When the ball doesn't bounce our way, we need to console
ourselves with an updated adage:
"Wait'll next Olympiad!"
In the mean time don't over-medicate on sports and have many "Happy
Holidays and New Years".
Editor's Note: Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D. wrote this week's column.
Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments
on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a Discovery Institute
Senior Fellow and a past president of the Association of American Physicians
and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists.
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