Good Things About Losing
Personally, I've always liked the fact that when Canada gets its butt whipped at hockey, there's an outcry.
Seems like that's been a productive dynamic over the decades. It made us look at our game after '72. After losing at the World Cup in 1996, the Olympics in '98 and suffering an embarrassing defeat to Kazahkstan at the 1998 world junior championships, Canadian hockey authorities held the Open Ice Summit that did a useful and thorough examination of the game in Canada.
There will always be those who say nothing was wrong in the first place, but they're wrong. Skill and speed in the game is embraced far more today than it was a decade ago in this country, and we're producing far more highly talented offensive players than grinders and goons.
So when we lose, we care. That's a good thing.
Contrast that with the absolute lack of any widespread outcry in the United States over the defeat of their national baseball squad at the World Baseball Classic to Japan on Sunday night, which was followed by the thrilling Japanese victory over South Korea last night in the championship game.
Right now, the main response I'm hearing from the U.S. media is "Who Cares?," truly an indictment of the way in which that country feels these days about its national pastime.
"Did you shrug your shoulders? Did you shake your head? Did you even bother to do any of that before flipping over to see the college basketball scores? " wrote Mike Vaccaro in the New York Post.
"And that's the problem. The World Baseball Classic is doomed to remain a glorified exhibition for as long as that indifference lingers and lasts in the mindset of the United States. Sorry if that sounds parochial.
"Apologies if that seems like the ugly ramblings of an ugly American. Sometimes, the truth ain't pretty."
Others, like William Rhoden of the New York Times, read more into the U.S. defeat.
"It was as if the United States was being reintroduced to a game it invented. The American game, for better or for worse, has moved to lavish new stadiums and supports lucrative player contracts. It is built on power and entertainment — a deadly combination, we’ve discovered, in an era of performance-enhancing drugs," wrote Rhoden.
"Meanwhile, nations like Japan and South Korea have learned our game, digested it and improved upon it by going back to the basics.
"'The world has caught up with us,' Bob Watson, a Major League Baseball vice president, said after Sunday’s loss."
Echoes of Canadian hockey after '72, huh?
The question is whether watching Japan capture the first two WBC events will alter the way in which the U.S. plays the game, and it doesn't sound like it. There was more talk about whether the U.S. had access to the right players for this event rather than whether they play the game in a way that will be successful internationally.
"Perhaps the result would have been no different had the U.S. had a better roster. But it would have been nice to see the two best American pitchers, Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum," wrote Bill Shaikin in the Los Angeles Times.
"It would have been nice to see Ryan Howard or Mark Teixeira playing first base, instead of a second baseman named Mark DeRosa. It would have been nice if Adam Dunn had been used at designated hitter instead of in right field, where he did not even try to throw out two runners on sacrifice flies that were not terribly deep."
Somehow I don't see an Open Field Summit coming for U.S. baseball.