Monday, March 9, 2009

Baseball Classic

Yesterday, Northwestern lost what may have been the most important game in the modern history of the program. Despite a ridiculous four-point play after a Juice Thompson desperation heave and some second-half heroics from Craig Moore, the 'Cats came up short in the clutch after valiantly battling back in the second half. Northwestern will need a miraculous run in the Big Ten Tournament in order to make the NCAA tourney, but the a berth in the NIT is almost certainly assured. An NIT appearance is certainly a step in the right direction for a program on the rise, hoping to add to the 1931 National Championship (as named by the Helms Athletic Association).

The halcyon days of Northwestern basketball ended with the Hoover


Despite the depressing basketball loss, this weekend also saw the kickoff of the World Baseball Classic, brilliantly combining international competition with professional baseball and constant fear of injury. Organizers hope that the World Baseball Classic will someday be as meaningful to baseball as the World Cup is to international soccer, although they have a lot of catching up to do in terms of international tension, historical blood rivalries, and vicious, marauding hooligans.

FIFA would never sanction a souvenir bat night

The Classic so far has had everything a sports fan could want from an international tournament: crazy upsets, young players coming out of nowhere, hilariously washed up guys waddling into the on-deck circle, screaming Venezuelans, Asian events that start at 5:30 AM and Canadian baseball legend Stubby Clapp. The U.S.-Canada game at Skydome was probably the best international baseball game since China kept beaning Americans in the Beijing Olympics causing commentators to claim that "our relations with China were nearly broken at the plate." The Canadians looked like a formidable team, hiding their lackluster pitching with an impressive array of major league sluggers and keeping Matt Stairs around in case of a little-known WBC rule that ends ties with a beer chugging and wing eating contest.

The seventh inning of the WBC is the
beer inning, and Matt Stairs is ready to
rake or chug for his country

Unfortunately, Canada was eliminated earlier this evening by Italy, a team made up of European Baseball Championship Serie A players and selected major leaguers who have recently eaten at a Sbarro restaurant. Another major upset involves BYCTOM favorite Australia, who not only beat Mexico in Mexico City, but invoked the slaughter rule in the eighth inning after racking up 17 runs. According to the Australian Baseball Federation, Australia not only faced Mexico's major leaguers but a hostile crowd that threw nuts and bolts at the Australian bullpen and drenched the Embassy staff with beer. The last thing you want to do is insult an Australian, especially former Prime Minister Paul Keating who has an entire webpage devoted to his insults. Some highlights include calling Wilson Tuckey a "stupid foul-mouthed grub" and shouting "Shut up! Sit down and shut up, you pig!" at him, calling John Howard a "little dessicated coconut" and a "mangy maggot" while taking cheap shots at his unkempt eyebrows, and assailing John Hewson's speaking style as "being flogged with warm lettuce." He also continuously attacked the Liberal Party in parliament as dullards, cheats (cheats, cheats-- he repeated this one for effect), scumbags, blockheads, and "intellectual hoboes."

Paul Keating has no time for intellectual hobos or their
periodicals about lakes of stew and whiskey too, thwarting
railroad bulls, and a Goofus and Gallant feature.


The story of the tournament so far, however, has been the Dutch who upset the powerhouse Dominican Republic on Saturday and gave Puerto Rico all it could handle in San Juan and Montreal's Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The Netherlands traditionally dominate European baseball, but also augment their success through Dutch imperialist legacies, using players from the Dutch Antilles. Aruba's Sir Sidney Ponson got the win on Saturday, and the WBC has brought back former Cub and racing sausage assailant Randall Simon from Curaçao. The sausage assault can be seen here in a newscast that breaks down the incident like the Zapruder film. Most people seem to forget that Simon was wearing a ridiculous mustard Pirates throwback uniform with a cylindrical hat that made the incident approximately eight percent funnier.

Legacies of Dutch Imperialism

The Netherlands Antilles have an interesting place in the Dutch Empire. After the smooth decolonization of Dutch Indochina, the Antilles remained part of the Dutch Empire. In the twenty-first century, the Antilles have been angling for further autonomy, with Curaçao and Sint Maarten leading the way (Aruba got its own semi-autonomous status in 1986). For now, however, the Antilles remain under the iron fist of Queen Beatrix.

Baseball enjoys larger popularity in the Netherlands than in the rest of continental Europe. This may be due to the fact that they refer to baseball as Honkbal, the greatest word ever created by human beings. This site has a guide to Honkbal in Dutch, with such phrases as Dat is vast een homerum!

Wel raak slaan hoor!

The Dutch face an elimination game against a vengeful Dominican Republic that they probably will not win. Nevertheless, the Dutch have shown that nothing is impossible in sports, a valuable lesson as the Wildcats head to the NCAA tournament and do their best to make their final case for the NCAAs. And to anyone who doubts the Wildcats' chances, as Paul Keating would put it, "We're not interested in the views of painted, perfumed gigolos."

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