I was thoroughly enjoying the broadcast of the March 23 final game of the recent World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium when I thought about steroids and sub-prime mortgages.
A seemingly odd leap, I’ll grant you – but hang in there on this one.
The thoughts had first stirred when I attended a semi-final game the prior Saturday, watching a South Korean team that counted just one player who’s on a big league roster here in the U.S. make hash of the Venezuelan squad. The Venezuelan team boasted plenty of players who make in living in the big leagues, including a number of All-Stars.
Then I tuned in the next night to watch Japan do a similar number on Team USA. More of Japan’s ballplayers have made a mark in our big leagues compared to the South Korean squad, but their team still paled in comparison to the star power of the Americans.
The Venezuelans and Americans didn’t just get beat in their semi-final games, by the way – they looked slow, lacking in the fundamentals of the game. The South Koreans and Japanese, on the other hand, looked quick and ever-alert. They pitched with heart, hit smartly, and fielded their positions with nimble dedication.
That set up a South Korea-Japan final that proved to be one of the best ballgames I’ve ever seen, going all the way to extra innings in a performance that highlighted how the game should be played.
None of the South Korean or Japanese ballplayers looked overly bulky. There were a few big fellas out there – but they were big like Babe Ruth or Frank Howard. They looked like naturally big guys who had learned to play baseball. No forearms that made you think of Popeye. No necklines from ears to shoulders.
I thought about how the big leagues of the U.S. have only begun to admit to the recent steroid binge. It reminded me how obvious the trend had been. Anyone who couldn’t see the physical indicators in the players should have been able to get a good idea just by looking at the statistics piled up during the Steroid Era.
Baseball fans looked past all of that, for the most part. So did players and team owners. Home runs are sure fun, after all.
That’s where my thoughts turned to sub-prime mortgages – because we as a society did pretty much the same thing to our economy. We shot some concocted substance into our economic bloodstream, getting a short-term boost that didn’t require any real dedication to owning a home or building communities. We went for the shortcut – just like those big league ballplayers who decided to get their power from a syringe instead of dedication to the game.
Folks all over the world joined us by directly or indirectly flexing the fake economic muscles engendered by the sub-prime mortgage mess. Yet a look at the World Baseball Classic shows that not everyone fell for the shortcut offered by steroids. Not everyone turned their backs on sportsmanship and fundamentals at the ball yard.
So put love of the game alongside genuine community building on the back-to-basics list for our American Culture.
We might as well make it a thorough housecleaning.
Jerry Sullivan is the Editor & Publisher of the Los Angeles Garment & Citizen, a weekly community newspaper that covers Downtown Los Angeles and surrounding districts (www.garmentandcitizen.com)