The Pace is the Trick

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Mark likes the hardcore sports. Basketball and football are great. WWF is even better.

He’s less enamored with baseball and soccer. There’s less immediately gratifying action, not as much violence (though I think I’ve seen him wearing a Suarez jersey in recent weeks), and a lot more activity that leads to nothing. He wants convincing that these sports are worth watching.

Tonight was a great audition for baseball. Dodgers-Pirates had violence, home runs, and lots of swagger. Then the Giants one upped them with Buster Posey homering to tie the game in the 9th, and Big Time Timmy Jim Lincecum coming in to get his first major league save in the 14th inning. Giants go one game up on the Dodgers. Lincecum becomes one of the very few pitchers in major league history to get both a save and pitch a no hitter in the same season.

And while the World Cup was the obvious entree to soccer, the MLS is suddenly emerging too. Sports are all about different paces and the way to enjoy any sport is to settle in and accept the pace its providing. Boxing is not soccer; football is not baseball. And if you are watching football, it can be jarring to adapt to the pace of a baseball game. But I’d argue it’s equally jarring to go the other way. If I’m watching soccer, its hard to adjust to the NFL–all of a sudden, the lack of fluidity is acute, the helmets and pads constitute obstructions, the constant substitutions a drag. This weekend, I watched a lot of MLS. Seattle showed it can play with Tottenham. Sporting Kansas City showed it can totally dominate the pace of a game while leading, for most of it, just 1-0. Yeah, the Revolution were pretty dull, but any team in any sport that’s on a long losing streak is dull. Would you rather watch the Revolution lose or the Sixers lose or the Jaguars lose?  The MLS is starting to find its rhythm, and its thriving off smaller cities with real crowds and blue collar players. And now, for the first time, its got a bit of star quality–not in the bloated past their prime Beckhams but in the Dempseys and Zusis.

Back to Lincecum real quick. He just turned 30, and he’s coming off more than 2 years as arguably the worst full-time starting pitcher in all of baseball. And I think he’s on a trajectory to make the Hall of Fame. Few players have been as exciting, as quirky, as human, and as a guy that everyone wants to watch than Tim Lincecum. And now with his seeming reinvention as a pitcher as opposed to a flame thrower, a mustache as opposed to long hair, he’s starting to rack up the kind of things that eventuate in the HOF. Two Cy Youngs, two championships, two no hitters; a no hitter and a save in a matter of weeks. If the Giants get a third championship, if Lincecum reinvents himself as Dennis Eckersley or just keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s there.

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