[LETTERS to the editor]America, passsionless losersPerhaps an omen of the American National team’s dismal performance in the World Baseball Classic first came a few months ago when Major League Baseball owners and players began quibbling about the tournament’s imposition on their livelihoods. Its inconvenience was clear as the tournament played out.
The American team didn’t want to be there and their play spoke volumes: an 8-6 loss to a mainly minor league Canadian team, a 3-2 birthday-present-win over Japan after a “major league” botched call, and a 7-3 defeat to South Korea in which three recorded errors by the U.S. team underscored their inept play. Their final loss to Mexico on a broken-bat, game-ending double play seemed not to come soon enough.
I hesitate to call this the zeitgeist of professional American sports, but it surely isn’t far from it. The apathy and discountenance of the U.S. team in the WBC wasn’t far behind the last two Olympic basketball teams and was a perfect example of why baseball won’t be an Olympic sport after 2008. The moneygrubbing owners and players have no time for paltry patriotic competitions. And I fear that the average American isn’t far behind.
So I’m left pondering what our national pastime has become, what greed, arrogance and solipsism have produced. I find myself thinking of Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken jr. and I wonder where the love of the game, the passion to play and the unending desire to win have gone. I was reminded of all those things while watching the earnest Cubans, the patriotic Koreans, the passionate Dominicans and the raucous Puerto Ricans. Not once did I feel this while watching the U.S. team. They all looked like they had somewhere to be. The other teams and their fans looked as if they wouldn’t have dreamed of being any place else.
Near the end of the 7-3 U.S. loss to Korea, a student prodded me for a reaction to the impending loss. “There’s a lesson to be learned,” I said. To this a fellow American co-worker responded, “From losing?” Consequently the words of one of baseball’s original Hall of Fame inductees, pitcher Christy Mathewson, came to mind: “You can learn little from victory. You can learn everything from defeat.” Some 100 years after he pitched three shutouts in the 1905 World Series, his words ring ever true. May the owners, players and American people learn from this defeat before our greed and self-absorption consume us and destroy all the greatness that we have achieved in the world of sports.
by John M. Rodgers