WBC: A Response
My co-blogger asks, perhaps rhetorically, 'Why are people so down on [the WBC]?' In the spirit of inter- and intra-blog dialogue, I thought I'd take up the issue and present what I believe is a compelling case that the WBC should be scrapped immediately. I like and respect Positive Paul, and I'm not casting aspersions on the author/readers at DOV, where WBC-related posts are generating a flurry of interested comments. Still, I hope everyone will read my objections with an open mind before falling victim to the emotional tug of a superficially great Dominican Rep. v. Venezuela game, or a potential match-up of the US and Cuba, or Japan and the DR.
Many others, including USSM, have done a good job of summarizing the more pedestrian problems with this tournament, and I don't really want to go over those again. Instead, I'd like to present my own objections to show readers that there's a lot more going on than just gripes about timing.
In years past, baseball fans were simultaneously intrigued and perplexed by stories of Cuban baseball greats. Yes, Omar Linares can beat up on college kids and sub-Ryan Franklin minor leaguers, but what could he do against Roger Clemens? So this Yuliesky Gourriel chap is slugging 900 against a collection of A-ballers and random Dutchmen who were taught the game approximately two hours prior to first-pitch? Innnteresting, but what could he do against Daisuke Matsuzaka? This was teasing in the best sense of the word, and it was made *more* tantalizing by the fact that you never really knew. Would Linares strike out on three pitches, or would he turn on a 97MPH fastball and crush a HR?
In short, this arrangement left something to the imagination. Do you even HAVE an imagination, Mr. Selig? Oh yeah, you thought the cheap and tawdry display of these great Cuban talents against real MLB opposition would be of INTEREST to baseball fans, so I guess you do. Instead of the endless possibilities that play out in the minds of thinking fans, we'll be 'treated' to gratuitous displays of Cuban stars playing top-flight competition. Slo-mo close-ups of swing mechanics vs. great pitchers. Replay after replay of Cuban pitchers - demonstrating the break of curve balls and the location of fastballs in graphic, nay, TOO graphic ways. Some people find this sort of thing 'exciting.' As you can probably tell, I'm not one of them.
Besides, someone could get hurt.
2: Pre-empting quality programming
I'm glad to see the News Tribune's John McGrath pick up on this, because I hadn't heard it mentioned before. The hours in a day are finite, and there is a lot of competition for slots in ESPN2's rotation. This isn't the equivalent of the M's 2005 rotation here: we're talking about a network having to make the hard choices to broadcast the satellite events in the Bassmaster tour (how else can we make sense of the championship?), historical poker tournaments and NBA replays. I'm glad *I* don't have to notify those that don't make the cut. And here comes the WBC, waltzing into the fray like the coolest kid in its class. Oh, just because you're 'live' and 'baseball' you think that means you're entitled to air instead of the 1987 World Series of Poker finals, the one where Houston Flats pulled a jack-raise with tweaked quads, leaving the shortstack with a regicidal deuce-bullet as his only option...and then the unthinkable happened? I don't know what that means either, but that's *Drama,* WBC. You gotta *earn* that.
Don't even pretend that you're somehow 'better' than repeats of the World's Strongest Man. If you even try that tack, I'd love to introduce you to a massive, ornery scandinavian who's just been told that his greatest triumph - in front of literally dozens of fascinated/horrified zimbabweans - has been pre-empted for a baseball game featuring Chinese Taipei, in which someone could get hurt.
3: Some teams are baaaaaaad
South Africa is in this tournament. QED. Thank you for your service, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. The sad thing is, they may actually be better than mainland China. Look, if I wanted to see really poor baseball, I'd watch little league, and it's not like they're clamoring to show THAT on ESPN. What's that? ESPN already offers viewers wall-to-wall coverage of the LLWS? Huh. Well what do you know? I suppose those guys always did look a bit young, but then again, we're constantly told that David Eckstein is 31 years old, so I guess I never thought it was all that weird. My bad. Although you know, you're about 100 times more likely to see players crying in the LLWS than you are in the WBC, and nothing says 'drama' like dozens of kids bawling. What have *you* got to offer, WBC, besides the possibility of someone getting hurt?
Anyway, I'm going to flip on the championship game from the Atlantic Sun conference, or maybe catch a Sun Belt Conference game. Has the Ohio Valley wrapped up yet? Clearly, I've got better things to do than watch this self-proclaimed 'classic.'
Edited 3/6/06 12:30 P.M. -- PositivePaul
I was going to post my response in the comment section, but I figured it was just as appropriate to edit the post and add my response here.
Boy, a part of this argument almost sounds like the fodder I helped develop for one of my college classes. One of our assignments for the quarter was to write a point/counter-point speech, where one of the people in the group acted as a narrator/moderator, and the two other folks took either sides to a topic that was subject for debate.
The topic we chose? Whether a roll of toilet paper should be mounted on the holder with the flap hanging out (towards the person needing the TP), or the flap hanging in (towards the dispenser). We had to come up with some valid arguments that could be proven/demonstrated with research (and not just opinon-laden fluff).
I took the role of debater, and my bias was that the flap needed to hang in front. I spent several hours in the college library -- I kid you not -- researching any disease I could find that would vaguely, even however remotely, COULD be contracted by contact with a dirty toilet paper dispenser (Google would've REALLY helped, but Yahoo was king-of-the-hill back then, and, well, IE was probably just barely a figment of Bill & Co.'s imagination).
I actually did find a disease, and while I had trouble pronouncing it during the delivery of my speech, it still was about as valid as the argument that the WBC is bad because it pre-empts such valuable programming like "historical poker tournaments and NBA replays"
I do agree that it's probably less interesting for folks here in the states than for those across the seas. But I don't think it's completely worthless. It's certainly a contrived experiment, and it doesn't look overly successful yet. But, like all new forays, they need a little time to develop in order to see if they're ultimately successful.
Imagine if Tim Deegan failed in his conversations with Bill Quigley, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show was never shown at midnight in the Waverly? Or, similarly, what if Louis Farese, a kindergarten teacher from Staten Island, hadn't screamed at the screen and started the whole revolution of dialoging with the movie? Certainly things can start out completely lame, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, become huge.
While it's certainly under-appreciated (especially in the lower 48, and probably the other two as well), I'm not convinced it should completely vanish. Certainly the notion of Ichiro facing his current team in an exhibition game sounds intriguing (especially if Felix pitches), and (as the WBC is set up to establish) a lesser-known-by-Americans-but-(insert-random-WBC-participating-country's)-folk-hero facing guys like Clemens, Pedro, Felix, etc... is a legitimately fascinating story for that country. Eventually, we'd have the potential storyline of a team from a country like Iraq upsetting the US powerhouse.
I'm thinking Jamaican Bobsled team, folks! That was a fun story, even if it was a bit contrived...