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As all of New York and most of America gets in a frenzy about the "World Series" starting this weekend - may I be allowed to voice a word or two of dissent?
Now one is treading on dangerous turf when one is a "Resident Alien" (the pleasant INS euphemism for "foreigner") and one dares to critique any aspect of Americana. So let me preempt my words by saying how much I love America. If I didn't genuinely love this country and its many magnificent qualities - I wouldn't be here.
But since one of those qualities is Freedom Of Speech - let me now seriously abuse that right by expressing how ridiculous this so called "World Series" is. And I have two principle objections to it.
First and most seriously - the name. Now everyone knows that America is the most powerful nation on earth. You gave the world everything from nuclear energy and rock & roll to George Foreman's Mean Lean Grilling Machine. But you are still one country - not the entire planet.
Would someone please tell me precisely what other nations were invited to submit entries to the qualifying rounds of the "World" Series. I don't seem to recall any Albanian baseball teams competing. Where were the plucky Paraguayans? The sly Samoans? The tenacious tykes from Tuvalu (it's near Fiji.) Answer? Nowhere. That's because baseball is not played in 99% of the countries of the world!
It's a fabulous (ahem) sport if you like that sort of thing - but American baseball fans must surely admit that apart from a few stray Japanese and Cuban teams - baseball is something of a bust in export terms. So to drape the grandiose "World" in front of the word "Series" is a bit of a cheat. Up there with Ross Perot's pathetic use of the term "world-class" (whatever that meant) and the patronizing term "world music" - which loosely translated means anything not in English.
So can we have some truth in advertising and call this the "American Series"? A touch less glamorous perhaps. But until baseball rivals soccer - which IS played in the vast majority of nations on this planet - and can thus really stage a "World" Cup - to call it anything more is a serious affront to the English language.
Now as to the game itself - I have no real objection. Admittedly it is a simpler, less sophisticated version of cricket (which is played in MANY more countries than baseball) but I don't think Americans should be ashamed of that. As kids we usually learn to play checkers as a primer for the more intellectually challenging game of chess. And it is true that cricket has many subtleties that have thus far eluded most Americans. But you are a young nation - and I'm sure that as you continue to master the simple art of slugging an oversize ball as far as you can - eventually you will hunger for the more sophisticated skills and erudite nuances of a Gentleman's sport. A game which blends the cerebral with the athletic. A fusion of brain with the brawn you have already mastered.
Admittedly one does need stamina to play cricket. Professional games at the local level last three days. And international games between teams representing two nations (a concept which is understandably alien to baseball fans) stretch over five days. There is a reason for this. The English (who devised cricket and exported it to what was then its empire) are not a very spiritual nation. So cricket was invented as a way of defining infinity.
I admit that cricket will have a tough path in finding acceptance in America. To rephrase Tom Hanks in "A League Of Their Own" - there's no scratching in cricket. There's also no gum-chewing, no spitting, no national anthem-singing by Roseanne. And unlike that soft padded globe that you call a baseball - the metal-hard leather and cork cricket ball that we use really hurts if you catch it. However those who play in the cricket field do NOT have those namby-pamby padded gauntlets that baseball fielders use to protect their precious little fingers. I guess cricket is just a real guy game as well as an intellectually-challenging game of wits.
So - this week as you settle back to watch the Yankees and Mets slug it out for the title "Best Baseball Team In New York" - think of the national teams Americans could be playing if they could only comprehend cricket. You could be competing against England, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, The West Indies... Now THAT would be a World Series.