Tag Archives: World Baseball Classic

The Tokyo Olympics will have Fanfare but no Common Man

On July 8, 2021, in another in a long list of “the show must go on” actions it was announced that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics would still start at the end of July 2021, but would do so without fans in attendance.

In short, the games would have fanfare but no common man or woman in the stands cheering the athletes onto victory.

The reason cited for the nixing of fans and pomp and circumstance was the fact that Tokyo is currently under a state of National Emergency due to the number of COVID-19 cases sweeping through the region.

COVID-19 was surging in Tokyo last year as well which caused the 2020 Summer Games to move to 2021.

So, with not much changed in terms of the amount of virus in and around Tokyo between this time last year and now, the games will continue. After all, organizers will be quick to say that there is too much money on the line to postpone the games once again.

Although the idea of going full blast with the Olympics while the average citizens of Japan are battling the COVID-19 monster sounds like the plot of a bad Godzilla movie, it is very much a real thing.

In 1992 I made my first trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum. I returned over 20 years later and the building was just as iconic and awe inspiring as it had been to me as a child. In 2028 the Olympic games will make their fourth trip to the coliseum.
Photo R. Anderson

I have always loved watching classic Godzilla movies. While the battles between Godzilla and his band of monsters are entertaining, I enjoy the way that the heroes always win in the end by using sound scientific principles.

It does not take a scientist battling a radioactive monster to see that even without fans, having thousands of athletes, coaches, media and other support personnel travel to a virus hot spot for two weeks and then returning to their home countries does not seem like the brightest idea.

At least by banning fans from the venues inside Tokyo the number of people who would potentially take COVID-19 back to their home countries is minimized somewhat.

But this is not a column about my love of Godzilla movies, or the rationale of holding international sporting events during COVID-19. For right or wrong, numerous leagues across the world have declared themselves open for business and the COVID0-19 virus vanquished. Many scientists and other people dispute that claim but still the games must go on.

Were I in a position to make that decision, I would certainly postpone the games. However, at the end of the day, it does not really matter to me whether the Olympics are held or not since I will not be watching them, nor really caring about who wins what medal.

My ambivalence towards the Olympics is a somewhat recent development. I was once a fan of the Olympic games and all that I thought they stood for. However, I grew cynical to the point of despising the Olympics while pursuing my Master of Science (M.S.) in Sport Management.

I am sure that my instructors thought that the in-depth study of the Olympics would fill me to the brim with pride. However, the more I studied the Olympics, the more it had the opposite effect.

Once you peel back the layers of the Olympic onion and get past all of the pomp and circumstance, one is left with a very rotten core where sportsmanship and competition are overshadowed by greed and graft.

In 2014, I glowingly wrote about my excitement to watch the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games in Sochi Russia. In my column, I mentioned some of the issues that the Russian organizers were having in finishing the facilities in time for the opening ceremonies but the overall theme of the column was that I was looking forward to the games and saw them as something that brought the world together for a few weeks of positive competition.

From the bribes and kickbacks during the host city selection process, to the fact that billions of dollars in facility construction is often spent in third world countries where citizens live in poverty and the shiny arenas of the Olympics turn into crumbling relics after the games the Olympic are rife with a darker side.

Six months after the torch was extinguished at the 2016 Summer games in Rio de Janeiro, many of the Olympic venues had been abandoned and were in various states of decay. One need only do an internet search on abandoned Olympic sites to see that Rio is far from alone in spending billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for the Olympics only to watch it all go to waste after the torch has moved on to the next city.

The crumbling Olympic venues dotting landscapes across the globe serve as reminders that as cities continue to battle to host the games, some countries would be better off spending the billions of dollars it takes to host the games in others ways.

When the Summer Olympic Games return to Los Angeles in 2028 they will utilize myriad existing stadiums, ballparks and arenas which is a stark contrast to the build it and abandon in place approach employed during the Summer games in Athens and Rio de Janeiro among other cities.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone once said, “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.”

While I am against the Olympics on principle, I support the various athletes who train for years for what often amounts to a single chance to go for gold on the world stage.

In that regard, I can see that continuing to postpone the games will have serious ramifications on athletes from around the world who dream of that one shot at Olympic glory and immortality.

The old saying about hating the game not the player comes to mind along with visions of Hamilton and Eminem not wanting to give away their one shot.

The 2020 games taking place in 2021 will feature the return of baseball, and softball as Olympic sports. Baseball was last an Olympic sport in 2008. Additionally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed back in 2016 to add karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing to the competition slate for the Tokyo games in a bid to attract younger fans to the games and stay relevant.

Although I no longer watch the Olympics, every four years I dust of my 100th Anniversary of Olympics music soundtrack for some fanfare for the common man as well as some good old fashioned Olympic fanfare by John Williams.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone who still has their 1985 Topps Mark McGwire Olympics rookie card, I am certainly happy to see baseball back in the Olympics, but even that does not really move my excitement needle to want to watch the games this year.

Despite my current position on the Olympics, I am hopeful that I may once again put on my blinders and see the whole onion instead of the rotten layers.

I have always been more of a Winter Olympics fan than a Summer Olympic fan. As such, perhaps my cynicism will melt by the time hockey and curling roll around in 2022 at the Beijing Winter Olympic games. If not, one can hope that I will be California dreaming by 2028 and will be watching beach volleyball and surfing on the sands and waves of SoCal that I know so well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to some Blue Oyster Cult.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Big Time Fights, They Aren’t Just for Hockey Anymore

The other day I decided to watch the World Baseball Classic game between Mexico and Canada.

Part of the motivation for watching the game was to try to figure out how it was that Team USA lost to the Mexican team the day before. The other motivation was the fact that I had watched Team Canada play in a tournament in St. Petersburg, FL last year.

Members of Team Canada take batting practice during a 2012 exhibition game at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo R. Anderson
Members of Team Canada take batting practice during a 2012 exhibition game at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL.
Photo R. Anderson

So as I settled in to watch the game I knew that while there are Major League Players on each of the rosters, the World Baseball Classic plays by international rules which differ from the MLB rules in some areas.

One of those rules involves running up the score when possible to help the run differential numbers.

In most cases running up the score is frowned upon in sports when the lead is well in hand.

In fact, high school and college games include an 11-run mercy rule to help prevent really lopsided scores.

Back when I covered high school baseball I actually found myself rooting for the mercy rule to come into play many a night.

It wasn’t that I wanted a team to lose by that much, but a shortened game meant that I could get back to the office sooner and in theory get the pages on the press earlier. It did not always work out that way but when it did it was uber nice.

So during the Canada versus Mexico game, and with Canada having a very safe lead late in the game, the lead off batter in the eighth inning for Canada dropped down a bunt and reached safely when the third baseman was late to react.

There was nothing inherently dirty about the bunt. As mentioned earlier, the tournament was set up to encourage teams to score as many runs as possible.

Apparently the third baseman for Team Mexico missed that memo and directed the pitcher to deliver a message to the next better. One international constant in baseball it seems that is understood in every language is the intentional hit batter when a team feels it has been wronged.

So, the pitcher hits the batter in the back, the batter takes offense and starts to charge the mound, and both benches clear and partake in an all out brawl.

Team Canada and the Baltimore Orioles during a 2012 exhibition game. Photo R. Anderson
Team Canada and the Baltimore Orioles during a 2012 exhibition game.
Photo R. Anderson

While not as common as say a fight in hockey, baseball fights do occur now and then. The main catalyst for these fights usually centers on a player getting hit by a pitch.

One of the more absurd elements of these fights for me is the sight of the bullpen pitchers running all the way across the outfield to get to the fight, which in many cases has already ended by the time they arrive to participate.

The fight between the Canadian and Mexican teams was atypical in the fact that it seemed to last a lot longer than most.

Once the teams were finally sent back to their dugouts and the dust had settled, fans of the Mexican team started throwing items into the Canadian team’s dugout. The most glaring of these being a mostly full water bottle that hit one of the coaches in the head.

Fans were ejected and the game was finally able to continue with Canada advancing and Mexico getting eliminated from the tournament.

While I do not go to a baseball game hoping to see a fight, I know that sometimes emotions run high and tempers flare leading to a dust up like the one at the game the other day. What I have no patience or sympathy for is unruly fans or people trying to get in on the action by throwing things onto the field.

For the most part athletes are not looking into the stands, except for Alex Rodriguez trying to get phones numbers, so they are more at risk of not seeing items flying in their direction. These projectiles falling from a long distance can create serious injury.

The fan mob mentality of throwing things is not limited to American soil. Soccer is known for the massive riots that erupt oversees. And many of those riots end with people being killed.

Seriously, people it is just a game. And there will be other ones so there is no need for people to lose their lives over it. Also, in many of those riots it is innocent people that end up paying with their lives over the action of a few.

I have had the opportunity to go to several sporting events that have included Canadian fans, both hockey and baseball. And by and large they are some of the most well behaved and considerate fans I have ever been around in terms of stadium etiquette.

Even when they are “heckling” the other team it seems polite and never rises to the level of personal attacks. Now, I am sure that there are bad Canadian fans, just like there are good and bad fans anywhere, but I have yet to see them.

My point is not to say that fans cannot get emotional about their teams. Quite the opposite healthy passion for one’s team is at the very heart of sports. What I am saying is that it is possible to be passionate and polite at the same time. If you don’t believe me just try sitting next to some Canadians some time.

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about Canada has me in the mood to watch some Bob and Doug McKenzie movies.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson