Jewish World Review Feb. 27, 2003/ 25 Adar I 5763


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Wordsworth Wasn't A Baseball Fan: Hey, sportswriters went to college, too --- and they can prove it | Like many Americans, I'm looking forward to the upcoming baseball season. It's a simple pleasure: Watching from the sidelines as my sons play in the Downtown Little League, hoping for a scorching line drive or diving infield catch, or even consoling one of them after three consecutive strikeouts, makes for an ideal spring or summer day.

Similarly, the beginning of Major League play brings another welcome diversion to our household. Before Opening Day, it's possible to hope the Yankees will fall apart­especially this year, with George Steinbrenner publicly berating Derek Jeter and Joe Torre, two Bomber legends­and that the Boston Red Sox will finally win a World Series during my lifetime.

I'll make my annual charity $25 bets that Fenway Park next year will fly its first championship flag since 1918. Still, I fear Pedro Martinez or Manny Ramirez will be injured by May, and that new Sox General Manager Theo Epstein's thorough humiliation of Shea Hillenbrand will continue until the all-star third baseman is traded for next to nothing. And then becomes the next Jeff Bagwell. Who knows, maybe George Herman Millar, hijacked from the Chunichi Dragons, will actually hit 25 homers, beating out Jeremy Giambi for the top second-tier Bosox off-season acquisition.

Meanwhile, the Yanks are a lock to win 100 games, even if Roger Clemens doesn't notch his 300th victory until August, Jorge Posada falls apart behind the plate and David Wells' back gives out for good by June. And a second-place A.L. East finish probably won't earn the Bosox a wild-card spot, not with the White Sox poised for a monstrous season, along with the A's and Angels.

Wait a minute! This is supposed to be an optimistic assessment of my team, especially since not one infield error has cost Derek Lowe a win. Maybe the cynicism comes from the annual onslaught of sportswriters (the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy blights an already abysmal newspaper) attempting to show the world that like The New Yorker's Roger Angell and pundit George Will, they can use $25 words in describing basket catches and stolen bases.

Tom Verducci, in the Feb. 24 Sports Illustrated, was the first this year to elevate baseball to a metaphor for life and world affairs. He opened an article on spring training with a bang:

"Hope, Aristotle divined, is the dream of a waking man. America, at midwinter in a post-9/11 world, challenged that notion last week.

"Hundreds of bits of a spacecraft still lay strewn along miles of the Bible Belt [I'll ignore that slur for right now]. Duct tape, the classic punch line of handyman humor, suddenly became a serious staple of civilian defense [only for Maureen Dowd and Sally Quinn] against dirty bombs that might come from unknown agents of war. And the words weapons of mass destruction rolled too easily off the tongue, included in the foreboding drumbeat of news from the Middle and Far East. [Verducci's a Howard Dean voter, I'm betting.] While much of the country listened for diversionary sounds of encouragement, the too-familiar scrape of a snow shovel upon the driveway or chattering of teeth against February's chill only mired them in a deeper state of blue.

"And just then, last Friday, on Valentine's Day morning as it happened [what's love got to do with it?], hope, as Aristotle knew it, made its presence felt in Mesa, Ariz. The Chicago Cubs' pitchers, whose degree of wakefulness in recent years could be questioned by philosophers of absolutely no repute, began their first workout of spring training. Hey, with hope­as with love, charity and a good full-bodied red wine­no helping is too modest or too insignificant to nourish the spirit."

In addition, Verducci tossed in Dr. Seuss, Ponce de Leon, John Calvin (referring to Bosox diehards, who are "Cubs fans without the sense of humor"), the Koran, Wordsworth, Charlie Brown and John Updike.

The Daily News' Dick Young might've been a bigoted jerk, but I'd take his baseball articles over the likes of Verducci's any day.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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