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May '09 11

Baseball is better than Soccer – a Baseball-Blog by John Miller

Old World Pastime

John Miller, player/coach of the Brussels Kangaroos and a reporter for a major American newspaper, is back chronicling his team’s 2009 season in his weekly column that will appear every Monday on mister-baseball.com.

Growing up in Brussels, I fell in love with baseball and journalism via the International Herald Tribune. My dad brought it home every day. Sometimes, I paid 50 Belgian francs to buy a copy myself.

I turned to the sports, first checking the standings and line scores. (Later, I would graduate to politics and international affairs.) This was the late 1980s. The object of my affection, the Baltimore Orioles, were always something like 34-45 .425 16½.

On Tuesdays, I think it was, the paper printed the names and statistics of the league leaders. I played spot the Bird, proudly settling my eyes on “Wins– Boddiker 5-2, 3:23”

At the time, the paper was jointly owned by the Washington Post and the New York Times. I grew up reading the best sportswriters on the East Coast, men like Ira Berkow, Maury Allen and Tom Boswell.

In October, the paper printed entire pages of playoff coverage. I clipped the stories and pasted them in lined notebooks. I read the pieces over and over again, and wrote my own analysis in long-hand.

Bowell was, and is, my favorite. He writes about baseball with a precious mix of wit, humor and old-fashioned love. He was the first reporter to openly challenge a player, Jose Canseco, for using steroids. I collected anthologies of his work. Thirty times, I’ve read his recounting of the 1982 Orioles near-championship season, “Bred to a harder thing than triumph”.

Two months ago, he wrote a column celebrating the Dutch national team’s big wins over the Dominican Republic. When he responded to an email about European baseball, I felt like a kid shortstop getting a missive from Jeter.

One of Boswell’s best-known columns is “99 reasons why baseball is better than football.” (Nbr 1: Bands. See entire list here).

In that spirit, here’s 10 reasons why baseball is better than European soccer:

  1. Fake injuries.
  2. 0-0 ties. Nuf said.
  3. Baseball has room for everybody. A fat, slow guy can pitch or play first. In soccer, there’s only one position for slow runners.
  4. Substitution. What’s the point of carrying 22 players if you can only use three in a game? Baseball makes relief pitchers and pinch-hitters part of the drama.
  5. The clock in soccer is silly. The tactics used to delay the game, like fake injuries, substitutions and long kicks into the stands, turn the game into an 80-minute contest.
  6. Baseball is a game of small battles with definite outcomes. There’s pitcher vs. hitter, runner vs. base-stealer, hitter vs. defense. Every play has a winner, and adds to or takes away from the possibility of getting a run. Soccer is thousands of indefinable actions whose implications aren’t clear. Score!
  7. In soccer, you can hide by passing or avoid the ball. In baseball, if you go 0-for-4, everybody will know.
  8. Baseball is a sunny day in the bleachers with your kids. Soccer is a rainy night, standing up, with other people’s kids.
  9. Penalties are too important in soccer. A ref’s mistake can pick the winner. Baseball umpires make hundreds of calls per game. Their mistakes even out. They rarely decide who wins. No foul or offside rule on game-winning homeruns.
  10. It ain’t over till it’s over. In baseball, teams can win after trailing at the penultimate point. In soccer, teams never win when trailing by three scores in the 88th minute.

Send your 10 reasons why baseball is better than European soccer to oldworldpastime@gmail.com. Let’s try to get to 100.

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