With no soccer match Friday, I was at loose ends, as you can imagine. Turned on the tube and re-discovered another sport.
Guy with a bushy head of hair sticking out from under his ball cap, pitching furiously, getting himself out of jams in two innings of relief.
High drama. No biting. No flopping. No unseen stopwatch in the umpire’s hand. Timeless, to say the least.
Baseball. Soccer. The yin and the yang.
The other night I was pushing my book (did I mention my soccer book?) at the Midtown Scholar, a major used-book emporium and café in funky downtown Harrisburg, Pa.
Somebody asked the question, do I see soccer supplanting baseball in the hearts and minds of America?
I looked in the front row and saw a father and son, with St. Louis roots, carrying my Stan Musial book. We had chatted before the talk.
My answer was no, that baseball had a hold in the cities of America, where memories of Ty Cobb and Josh Gibson and Roberto Clemente still live. Americans know and feel those old rivalries – Yankees and Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants – the way traditional soccer nations honor the derby – Real-Atlético, Tottenham-Arsenal, AC Milan-Inter.
Soccer continues to boom in the U.S. Look at the huge crowds watching the World Cup, immeasurable by single-set gauges. Look at the rivalries and rising caliber of Major League Soccer. Look at the weekend audience for great soccer on the cable. There are now five major team sports in the U.S.A. And I don’t think soccer is fifth, either.
But supplant baseball? Not when a young pitcher like Jenrry Mejia, with great energy and great stuff, can get himself into trouble and get himself out in two straight innings, on the road, in grand old Pittsburgh, near the confluence of the rivers.
The Mets lost an inning later. Of course. Nice to see nothing has changed while I've been watching the World Cup.
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