Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2004 /8 Teves, 5764

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Baseball Good Medicine?: International Forkball and Split Finger Rotating Our Way Soon | Why a medical column on baseball at year's end? Well, baseball is very good medicine for Americans -- normally! Sports let us vent our spleens, hostilities and frustrations. But wait until 2004. We're going to get the old international fork ball, split finger and screwball!

There's a fine old German word, Schadenfreude, joy in the sufferings and misfortunes of others. Locally, Schadenfreude's relatively tame: a 30 mile backup on the freeway, going in the other guy's direction, for example. But global Schadenfreude - how they love it when America stumbles - is a different affair entirely.

No, I'm not talking about the Middle East, Saddam or Osama. The problem is baseball. We who invented the game, we who gave the world the hissy-fitting manager, the spitball, the infield fly rule . . . we won't be playing our game at the 2004 Olympics.

We lost, November 7th, in the qualifying tournament. To Mexico. 2-1. Maybe nobody's paying much attention now. But next year in Athens, they'll notice. And we'll notice that they notice. So get ready for a global Bronx cheer.

"We lost a game," said Sandy Alderson, an executive vice president in the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and the top American official with the team. "I don't think it's a setback for U.S. baseball. I think it's a validation of the internationalization of the game." (AP)

Great. Blame it on globalization.

So what went wrong? Frank Robinson, the team's Hall of Fame manager, opined that "It was a well-pitched game by their pitchers. We were not able to do much until the ninth inning, and it was not enough." (AP)

Once again, a manager demonstrates his keen grasp of the obvious.

So how did it happen? In 2000, a team managed by Tommy Lasorda took the gold at Sydney: a team that included pro stars Ben Sheets and Doug Mientkwiecz. (Professionals are eligible) But where were our professionals when Mexico took the joy away?

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Something's majorly wrong when all these megabucks superstars can't give a little back to their country. Of course, they have all kinds of excuses: contracts, injuries, time off from the regular season, agent doesn't like it, wife won't go, hangnails, whatever. But when you're getting $10,000 every time you throw a 6 ounce ball 60 feet feet, or $20,000 every time you wave a bat at one of those six ounce jobs - OK, the ball is hard and coming at you at 95 mph, but that's not the point - you'd think a little gratitude might be in order.

Not likely. Not in what professional sports have become. Abner Doubleday's no doubt rotating in his grave over our failure, but so are the ancient Greeks, who took athletics very seriously. To them, victory indicated the favor of the gods. To us, victory brings product endorsements. From "Show Us the Glory" to "Show Me the Money" - a long and not entirely graceful way down. And when we talk about "sports immortals," well, so did the Greeks. But they meant it literally.

But enough of this self-pity. What is to be done? Sometime within the next few decades, the United States will host the Games, and our baseball team will automatically participate. Until then, we'll have to earn our spot. So here's what we do.

First, Roger Clemens, who graciously offered to play in 2004, must be kept from aging. The world must have an opportunity to observe and appreciate The Rocket's Red Glare.

Second, bring back Tommy Lasorda! In 2000 the U.S. team managed by the ex-Dodger skipper and Hall-of-Famer Lasorda took the gold at Sydney­with a team, like this year's, comprised mainly of professional castoffs and Major League wannabes.

Third, make Lasorda's job a lot easier. Get Major League Baseball to follow the lead of the National Basketball Association in its willingness to have its stars compete in the Olympics. Baseball balks at the idea because, unlike with basketball, the Olympics interrupts its season. One equitable solution might be for the U.S. Olympic Committee to have the right to tap the services of only one or two willing players from each big league roster. Think of it as an "amateur draft" in reverse.

Fourth, we need to strengthen our baseball programs at all amateur and professional levels. We'll do it the American Way, by importing as many outstanding Latino and Japanese players as we can find!

Finally, we American baseball fans must acclimate to changing global realities. When the ball doesn't bounce our way, we need to console ourselves with an updated adage:

"Wait'll next Olympiad!"

In the mean time don't over-medicate on sports and have many "Happy Holidays and New Years".

Editor's Note: Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D. wrote this week's column.

Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and a past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.


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