Crash Bag, Vol. 20: A Disturbing Lack of Patriotism

I watched the middle innings of the Great Britain-Canada WBC qualifier yesterday afternoon. Which brings us to our first question, which wasn’t intended as a Crash Bag question, but it warrants answering.

@loctastic: “can’t you just watch normal baseball like a normal person?”

No. I watch international baseball and college baseball because I’m a massive sports hipster. I want to know who Nolan Fontana is before anyone else and lord it over you that I hated Robert Refsnyder before hating Robert Refsnyder was cool. This is why I watch oodles of curling during the Winter Olympics and develop strong opinions about Louisa Necib. I like being exposed to new things, and I like showing off to people how much I know. So screw you.

Plus Michael Roth pitched. I love Michael Roth, not only because he led my South Carolina Gamecocks to two straight national titles and a third appearance in the College World Series finals. But because he’s so obviously smarter than the hitters he befuddles with his seriously average stuff. It’s what I love about watching athletes like Greg Maddux and Peyton Manning, that they not only outplay but outthink their opponents. Plus, as I said in last week’s Crash Bag, I want to be Michael Roth’s best friend.

So how did Roth, who’s from a suburb of Greenville, South Carolina, wind up pitching for Her Majesty’s Base Ball Team? This is where I’ve got a bone to pick. His mother is English, which entitles him to dual citizenship, so he can play for Team GB, which he does, despite being thoroughly American.

This is patent nonsense. Most of the European teams (except the Netherlands, whose roster mixes Dutch players with the Kenley Jansens and Jurickson Profars of the Netherlands Antilles) are made up primarily of Americans and Caribbeans with some ancestral link to the mother country. Plus the Dutch call it honkbal, which is awesome, so they get to do what they want. I get the appeal for athletes, like Roth, who want to play international baseball but don’t have a prayer of cracking Team USA. But I don’t condone it.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of overseas territories, why does Puerto Rico compete as its own country in international sports? Aren’t Puerto Ricans American citizens? I know there are some national identity issues for Puerto Rican-Americans, but when I’m dictator of the world, you don’t get to have your own Olympic team unless you have your own military and your own welfare state.

Anyway, Dustin Parkes, a Canadian, wrote today at Getting Blanked about how he doesn’t get patriotic about international sports, which is fine, and would probably change if he lived in a country that was worth being proud of. I’m an intensely patriotic person, and sports kicks that drive into a xenophobic mania that has led me to say some things I’m not proud of about the Chinese, Russians, Italians, Mexicans and whoever else might be athletically inconvenient at the moment for the United States. I will watch golf if it involves a USA-versus-Dirty-Europeans angle.

So I view Americans playing for other countries in any sport as a betrayal of seditious proportions. It’s one thing for Roth, knowing Team USA doesn’t want him, to ply his trade elsewhere. But Giuseppe Rossi (of Teaneck, NJ), Alex Rodriguez (Miami), Manny Ramirez (New York City) and others who turned their back on their country for some reason or other have urinated on the banner of freedom and I won’t stand for it. I am terrified of the possibility that Israel might make the WBC finals, and that the best Jewish American ballplayers might flock to play for a country with no established baseball tradition whatsoever rather than the country that, you know, they live in and whose services they enjoy. It might make me stop liking Ian Kinsler, a possibility I had never even considered.

Maybe I feel this way because my family has been here for more than 100 years, or because insofar as I have foreign ancestral origins, they’re primarily Swiss and German, and no one’s really proud of being German-American the way people are proud of being Irish-American or Italian-American. Though when I switched my Twitter handle to my real name, I discovered how many Swiss and German guys are named “Michael Baumann” or “M. Baumann.” It’s a ton. We won the war–I want my name back.

But going back to the whole Italian-American pride thing, growing up in New Jersey around people who wear “Italia” t-shirts and pretend that their knowledge of their “culture” extends beyond being vaguely darkly-complected and having a grandmother who makes good pasta sauce has probably colored my perception of Americans who take a little too much pride in their family origins. Maybe if I’d grown up in Minnesota, where everyone’s of Swedish extraction and no one cares, things would have been different. But that doesn’t change my point– we’re American. Be proud of it or get out.

@gberry523: “if you are the Phillies, do you let Utley, Rollins, or Halladay play the WBC?”

More WBC. Rollins yes, Utley no, Halladay maybe. I get more of a sense of there being a limited number of miles left on the odometer from Utley than I do from Rollins. Though if Ian Kinsler plays for Israel instead of the United States, I might send Utley and have him slide in extra hard on double play attempts.

As far as Halladay goes, I think I’d prefer he rest his shoulder given the season he’s had, but if he wants to play for Team USA, I’d consider letting him go. But considering that he was left off both the 2006 and 2009 rosters, when he was healthier and in his prime, I doubt he’d volunteer. Frankly, I’d consider Halladay to be at best the fifth-most likely Phillies pitcher to be tapped for WBC duty, after Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon for the USA and Phillippe Aumont for Canada. I’d actually be less surprised to see Antonio Bastardo on the Dominican Republic team than Halladay on Team USA.

@JFSportsFan: “Who is the most 2012 Phillie?”

That’s a good question. We’re looking for someone who’s vaguely weird and kind of unfamiliar. My dad was complaining to me a couple weeks ago about all the new guys in the lineup, that he’d just gotten used to the old guys and now everything’s changing.

I’d go for someone who’s had a disappointing season, but that’s just depressing. Let’s go for a newcomer, someone who’s at once maddening and bizarrely played very well. Someone who embodies the approach that got the Phillies into this pickle in the first place.

Yes, I’m looking at you, Juan Pierre.

Jim from Philly: “If you were at the Mets game right now as a Mets fan, should you have an argument if you walked to the window and demanded a refund?”

Boy, that was a rough night for Mets fans, wasn’t it? I missed the first half hour of the game and expected the game to be scoreless or maybe 1-0 in the second inning. Then Juan Pierre was up for the second time, up to slap the eighth of nine singles in an eight-run inning.

So I’d say that after your team goes down 8-0 in the first, you should be kind of mad. But let’s say you get your refund–then you’re out on the street in Queens, surrounded by New Yorkers, with no baseball to watch. Isn’t that worse?

@AntsinIN: “can we officially start calling Aumont the Pont à Paps?”

I’d go with Pont à Papelbon and spell it out, but yes, I believe so. Anthony created this nickname a couple weeks ago, and I like it. There’s nothing like coming up with a nickname and having it stick–I’ve done this twice, by my count, with Tony No-Dad for Antonio Bastardo last year and Exxon for Wilson Valdez in 2010 (yes, that was me, and anyone who tells you different is a liar), and it’s a great feeling, so I get why you’re so excited.

Anyway, it plays off the Ryan Madson “Bridge to Lidge” thing, which is good, it’s French, which is a plus for Phillippe Aumont, and it’s alliterative. I think it checks all the buttons. Consider him so nicknamed.

@soundofphilly: “if the Phillies miss the playoffs by a game or two, how much second guessing of the first half is healthy or necessary?”

I think we beat that to death in the first half. I, for one, would rather move beyond it for the sake of our collective mental health. Honestly, a lot of what went wrong was bad luck and injury, two things that you can’t really count on. All in all, I think the Phillies are about where they deserve to be–around .500 and hanging around the fringes of the playoff race. If there’s anything this season has taught me, it’s that dwelling on the negative when the team is good is cool and edgy and contrarian, but dwelling on the negative when the team is mediocre will just drive you up the gorram wall. So let’s be cool, brothers.

@andymoney69: “if you had to fight one sportswriter in a steel cage match who would you chose”

I know you want me to say Jon Morosi but I’m not taking the bait. I can tell you who it would not be–Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press’s Philadelphia bureau. That guy is absolutely ripped and I get the impression that he’d have no compunctions about literally tearing my limbs off. Not because he seems like a particularly nasty or violent guy, but you don’t get to have muscles that big unless you have a monomaniacal devotion to physical fitness, a devotion that includes, if necessary, pounding the living daylights out of doughy nerds who don’t know when to shut up. He is one sportswriter I would not trifle with.

My real answer has less to do with hating the writer than it does actually standing a chance at beating the writer. I’d pick Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy, because 1) I don’t think I could take him but I don’t think he’d literally kill me and 2) I’d bet my life that if I suggested that instead of fighting we just have beer and pizza delivered to the octagon and just sit and chat about hockey until one of us passed out, he’d be totally down. That way we’d be full, drunk and happy, with no severe injuries of any kind. Seems preferable to fighting, and I think beer and pizza with Wyshynski sounds like a blast. Other guys I’d challenge for the same reason: Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus, Jonathan Wilson of The Blizzard and Jonah Keri of Grantland. If any one of them is in South Jersey and wants to get sloppy drunk and talk about sports, let me know and I’ll buy the first pitcher.

@magoplasma: “My friend asks me for all the baseball related answers to his crosswords. Is this not cheating somehow? He claims gathering friend knowledge is fine, looking it up is cheating. And I have to know it off the top of my head.”

I’ll allow it.

There’s a longstanding tradition of asking friends for help with the crossword, reinforced by movies and TV, which is the only place people do crossword puzzles anymore, apart from the back of college lecture halls. And what’s the loss from your perspective if you help out? You get to conclusively prove your intellectual superiority–it’s like beating him in Trivial Pursuit in a fraction of the time.

In college, I was the king of helping people with their crossword puzzles, and I was happy to be of help. It was the only way I could impress girls. So phone-a-friend is acceptable in all cases for crossword puzzles.

@tiff1001: “polka dots, argyle, houndstooth, plaid. Assign a uniform pattern to each of the 4 main Philly sport teams.”

I’ve long been of the opinion that American sports teams are far too conservative with their uniform design. The first team to really deviate from established norms was the University of Oregon football team, and look what happened to them. There’s a place for the simple and the iconic: the Yankees, the Red Wings, Penn State football, and so on–all of those uniforms look great and have barely been altered in the past 50 years. But there’s room to experiment with patterns, I think.

Anyway, here’s what I’d go with:

  • Phillies: Polka dots. I don’t think it’s possible to make polka dots look good on any of these sports’ uniforms, so we’re just writing this one off. It’s going to look stupid, but it will be an improvement over the current home alternate uniform.
  • Eagles: Plaid. Not like the full Al Borland, but something subtle like the current Manchester United kit would actually look unbelievably cool in black and dark green.
  • Flyers: Argyle. I think the Flyers’ current uniforms are as close to perfect as you’ll get. Retro without being obvious or dated, referential to the team’s period of greatest success and bold without being obnoxious. I wouldn’t change them for anything. However, if I had to, I think argyle could work. When I think of argyle in sports, I think of early jerseys for the Garmin cycling team. Bold, eye-catching and easily-identifiable. Work something like that out in orange, black and white and we might be on to something. I think of all these patters, argyle is by far the most promising.
  • Sixers: Houndstooth. Does Houndstooth have to be black and white, or do I just think that because of Bear Bryant? I don’t know. Anyway, maybe you could get a red-and-blue houndstooth look going for the Sixers. I don’t really think this could work, not the way I do with the plaid Eagles, but I had to pick something.

@petzrawr: “Would you rather get kicked in the balls by Garo Yepremian or punched in the face by Mike Tyson? Assume both are in their prime.”

Garo Yepremian? Really? I’m not sure it’s possible to pick a less relevant athlete.

Okay, I’ve been legitimately punched in the face. I’m not sure I’ve ever been legitimately kicked in the balls, and I’d still take being punched in the face. Being kicked in the balls sucks. There’s nothing dignified about it, it seems like a direct attack on one’s manhood, and the pain not only lingers but resonates throughout your entire body. It sucks. On principle I’d rather be punched in the face than kicked in the nuts.

A quick trip to Google shows that elite soccer players kick the ball with about 1,200 pounds of force. One would expect Yepremian, as a proxy for an average NFL placekicker, to match that, if not exceed it. A heavyweight boxer maxes out at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 to 1,400 pounds. From a sheer physics perspective, you’d want the kick rather than the punch.

But is Iron Mike wearing gloves? If so, the padding and added surface area make it a no-brainer to take the punch to the face, particularly if Garo Yepremian is wearing cleats. If it’s a bare-knuckle punch, it’s a tougher decision.

So if we’re assuming the force of the blow to be roughly equal, it all comes down to what’s being hit. Garo is kicking exposed soft tissue protected by nothing but nerve endings. Tyson is punching bone. And it’s only one blow, which is key, so even if Tyson breaks some combination of my jaw, orbital bone, cheekbone and nose, he doesn’t keep hitting me until I’m literally dead. And since I’ve never had a concussion before, I’m at a lower risk for CTE even if I do get knocked out. A couple weeks’ worth of eating through a straw and I’m as good as new, ideally with a Bond Villain scar from the plastic surgery.

But if Garo Yepremian kicks me in the junk, that would hurt more and possibly cause permanent damage. I’d take the punch to the face in a heartbeat, because, yes, I value the safety of my manparts more than I value the safety of my brain.

@bxe1234: “If you were a ‘creative sentencer,’ how would you punish Yunel Escobar for his eye-black idiocy?”

In reality, I’d suspend him for the rest of the season and fine at least John Farrell and probably the Blue Jays organization for a massive failure of institutional control. I’m willing to buy Escobar’s contention that there’s a cultural/linguistic issue, or that he’s dumb enough or homophobic enough to think that there’s nothing wrong with wearing a gay slur on your face on television. It’s not an excuse, but that doesn’t shock me.

What does shock me is that no one stopped him. How do Farrell and his coaching staff, to say nothing of the other players, see Escobar put that on his eye black (one of the douchiest acts of personal style in sports, no matter what you write) and let him leave the clubhouse? It’s an astounding statement either of tacit support for that kind of hate speech, or of cognitive dissonance, or of naivete or of being asleep at the wheel–in any case, not something you want from your team.

I think we need to attack homophobia in sports for the same reasons we need to attack racism in sports commentary–it’s there, it’s hurtful, it’s outmoded and it gets well-meaning people sucked into attitudes that are more dangerous than they realize, to say nothing of allowing people who are actually prejudiced or bigoted to slide by without being confronted. Some have taken this opportunity to condemn the idiotic crossdressing stunts rookies have to go through as contributing to a culture of homophobia, and while I think there’s something to that, the larger problem I have with that is the hazing itself, not what form it takes.

I’d be content for now stomping out such obvious acts of homophobia as Escobar’s eye black booboo. I MLB found the right approach to stomping out established and undesirable behavior with its PED suspension policy: want people to stop doing something? Overreact massively. Announce that any overtly racist or homophobic language from MLB players or other on-field personnel will be met with fines and suspensions, escalating with each offense. If you start meting out five-game unpaid suspensions for calling an umpire a “cocksucker,” you might start hearing it less. Again, I’d like to get to the root of the problem, but for the time being I’ll settle for getting people to keep their bigotry to themselves.

I’m sorry, you asked for a joke and you got a lecture. I hate people who do that.

Ummm…I’m all for the Ludovico technique in this case: drug Yunel Escobar up and make him sit in a chair and talk to Luke Scott for 24 hours. That should cure his homophobia.

@DashTreyhorn: “The Phillies as characters from Brick.”

Okay, it’s been long enough that we can do one of these, particularly if it’s about such an awesome movie as Brick. If you haven’t seen it, you should, because it’s awesome.

  • Chase Utley as Brendan Frye: Constantly getting beat up, constantly one step ahead of everyone else, unable to quit when quitting is the smart thing to do.
  • Jimmy Rollins as Brain: Doesn’t get as much credit, but an indispensable part of the good guy winning.
  • Domonic Brown as Emily: Deeply loved, but can’t seem to catch a break.
  • Cole Hamels as Laura: Because Hamels kinda looks like Nora Zehetner.
  • Hunter Pence as Dode: I know Pence is gone, but this comparison is too perfect.
  • Carlos Ruiz as Brad Bramish: Distributes acts of terrific violence first, asks questions later.
  • Jonathan Papelbon as Tugger: Influential but with a head full of sawdust. This one’s pretty easy too.
  • Ryan Howard as The Pin: This was going to be Cliff Lee for his dispassionate, mysterious awesomeness, but I couldn’t get over the fact that both Howard and The Pin walk with a limp.

@houcktc: “Letter grade on Dom’s performance this year”

I think he’s been fine. I think he’s proved that he can hold down an outfield corner full-time, which is nice. I’d like to see him reach a little more of that power potential, but I think that will come. Mostly I’m just relieved that he wasn’t a total train wreck both offensively and defensively, which would have sent me into a depressive stupor of self-mutilation and watching film of Michael Martinez hitting. I’ll give Brown a B+ for his efforts so far: satisfying, but still leaving something to be desired.

@brendankeeler: “What would eighth grade Baumann think of Baumann today?”

He’d probably consider me fat and morally depraved above all else. Probably a little disappointed that I didn’t follow through with sportswriting as a career. But he’d probably be impressed with my awesome beard, so that’s something.

Wow, I am so overwhelmed by how massively I’ve underachieved since eighth grade that I’m losing my will to live. Time to go sit in a corner and cry.

@TBOHBlog: “Chipper Jones is a swell player, but how will the Phillies honor him while recognizing all of his stupid dumbness?”

I’d make a list of suggestions, but I don’t want to trample on future topics in case someone asks me “What are the 10 most horrific, painful, humiliating ways a person can die?” later on.

Let me acknowledge that Chipper Jones is one of the greatest third basemen of all time, a surefire Hall of Famer, an inspirationally great baseball player. Now let me say that I may not hate any baseball player more than I hate Chipper Jones. Actually, I’ll make a bulleted list of things I don’t like about Chipper Jones.

  • His stupid smile. The kind of unassuming, infantile aw-shucks expression that screams “I know I’m trying to grope your girlfriend at a party but you can’t be mad at me because I’m a good ol’ boy.” You know, that Brett Favre “I’m’a text you photos of my penis and try to sell you jeans anyway” face. No, Chip. I can be mad at you and I will hit you in the face.
  • His nickname. Congratulations, Chipper, you’re the only person to have a given name as stupid as “Larry Wayne” and somehow find a nickname to go by that’s even stupider. What kind of stunted intellect must you have to go by “Chipper” into your 40s?
  • He’s from Florida. I hate Florida. I wish they could take the Kennedy Space Center and Disney World and move them someplace that wasn’t so manifestly terrible, like South Dakota.
  • He’s an Atlanta Brave. I hate the Atlanta Braves.
  • He’s the last remaining remnant of that time in the mid-90s where not only were devastatingly great, but maintained a kind of veneer of smug superiority to them. I call this Atlanta’s “Hitler Youth” period. Thoroughly evil, but thoroughly vanilla. Like everyone is supremely confident in his own greatness but no one is either interesting or likeable. Imagine a room full of Mitt Romneys. I hated that team–the sooner Chipper retires the sooner I can start forgetting about the mid-90s Braves.
  • Hooters Waitress Baby. I’d bet large that at least one Phillies player has cheated on his wife, and while I certainly don’t encourage marital infidelity, it just seems so much more awful when Chipper’s doing it. I think this because I’m a spiteful person blinded by partisanship.
  • He bowhunts. Maybe he thinks that hunting with a bow makes him a more credible brave?
  • His Twitter account. I can’t read it without being driven to knock heads together. It’s a pastiche of overexuberant, approval-seeking bro-ishness with a patina of overexcited church youth group leader–that obvious effort to exude coolness and foster camaraderie that falls short because it’s so obviously trying too hard. We’re talking about a grown man who refers to strikeouts as “punchies” and home runs as “#cranks” and “#jerks” WITH THE HASHTAG. This coming from a man who has children–I weep for those children.

I don’t like the practice of giving gifts to opposing players in the first place, but maybe the Phillies should buy Chipper a watch or something. And then hire Garo Yepremian to kick him in the balls.

That’ll do it for this week’s episode of This Old House. On a personal note that may be of interest to those of you who like basketball as well, I’ll be writing about the Sixers for SB Nation’s Liberty Ballers this coming season, so you can find my work there, along with the work of several other quality writers. Feel free to check out the site.

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17 comments

  1. Gaël

    September 21, 2012 09:15 AM

    “Le Pont à Papelbon” (or “vers Papelbon,” if we want to nitpick) is an even better nickname if you pronounce Papelbon as if it were a French name. Just thinking about it has me snickering like an idiot.

  2. SJHaack

    September 21, 2012 09:19 AM

    Sorry, you have to actually curl to be a curling hipster. Incidentally, the curling season starts in October!

    Also I know we have twit-fought about this, but you are objectively wrong about the Phillies’ home alternates, one of the least awful third kits to ever grace sports and an awesome uniform in general.

  3. Max

    September 21, 2012 09:37 AM

    An addition to the list of things to hate about “Chipper” Jones, for me, anyway: his shoulder-lowering blow to Kratz a few weeks back. We’ve seen enough research from football to know how damaging collisions are to the brain. All home-plate collisions between a runner and catcher are incredibly dangerous enough; the baserunner, by far the less vulnerable of the two, need not brace himself a la a linebacker laying a hit on a wide receiver catching a football over the middle when neither man has the proper equipment for such a situation, and he could just as easily carefully place a slide, anyway. Kratz’s helmet literally flew off on impact, and I still watch that replay and immediately think of just how much of a miracle it is that he didn’t suffer a concussion, was able to stay in the game, and somehow held his head in the air after. Whether that required additional effort on the part of Kratz or it was simply an incredible accident, I don’t know, but that play still scares the hell out of me.

  4. jauer

    September 21, 2012 09:39 AM

    If the Phillies miss the playoffs by a game or two, there is no amount of “second-guessing” that is too unhealthy. It’s the whole purpose of pointing out the mistakes when they happen.

    “Second-guessing” in quotations, because there are about 4 people on Earth who thought allowing Thome to face Affeldt in April was a good move, or allowing Schwimer to come into the Braves game with a 12-9 lead with the bases loaded and only one out, or having Laynce Nix and Jimmy Rollins lay down sac bunts in the same game in Pittsburgh, using David Herndon instead of Papelbon in Pittsburgh, or leaving Blanton in the game to face David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez.

  5. Michael Baumann

    September 21, 2012 09:47 AM

    Haack:

    I have actually curled before. The only reason I don’t curl in a league is there isn’t one within an hour and a half of my house.

  6. Dan K.

    September 21, 2012 10:11 AM

    “using David Herndon instead of Papelbon in Pittsburgh”

    I missed this. When, during his time on the DL, did Herndon make an appearance?

    But you make a valid point; the Phillies’ choice of replacement players in games (most usually RP) is baffling.

  7. Dan K.

    September 21, 2012 10:49 AM

    Going all the way back to April? Seems unnecessary considering how many more recent gaffes there have been.

  8. Richard

    September 21, 2012 11:09 AM

    Well, April’s when they were in Pittsburgh, so, yes, by definition going all the way back there.

    By far most of the gaffes were in the early part of the season.

  9. jauer

    September 21, 2012 11:10 AM

    The question specifically mentioned first half, and games in April count the same as the ones in August, despite what Rich Dubee wants you to believe.

  10. LTG

    September 21, 2012 12:03 PM

    Can we also start calling RAJ the Ponte del Vecchio?

  11. BobSmith75

    September 21, 2012 02:08 PM

    B+ for Brown? Talk about grade inflation. It should be ‘C+, Passable but room for improvement on several issues’

  12. Oliver

    September 21, 2012 04:55 PM

    Cole Hamels is definitely Kara. Chooch is Laura: quietly behind everything the whole time.

    Maybe John Mayberry is Bramish? They both look good and start off kicking ass but it doesn’t last…

  13. BobSmith75

    September 21, 2012 06:50 PM

    B+ means ‘Excellent/Very Good’ depending upon the educational institution.

    Compare Brown’s stats to what he did last year or against other corner OF. There is no way those are ‘Excellent/Very good’

  14. hk

    September 21, 2012 06:55 PM

    Dom is hitting slightly better (higher BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA, WRC+) and fielding better (per UZR/150) than last year.

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