By Jon Wertheim
January 20, 2005

One of the offshoots of covering sports for a living -- apart from the swollen waistline and obsession with hotel points -- is that others assume you have opinions on all sports.

So it was that my neighbor Scott approached me last week, asking my thoughts on the Dodgers-Cardinals series. I've learned the hard way that you get burned pretending to know more than you do. So I confessed to Scott that I seldom cover baseball, and that I left the one baseball game I attended this year in the third inning, after my companion in prêt-o-porter Osh Kosh became terrified by the Mets' mascot. "What do you think, Scott?" I asked. "Cardinals in five?"

When Scott's filibuster on the Dodgers' greatness had ended, it dawned on me how far baseball has fallen on my line-up card of interests. Plenty of the names Scott had dropped were completely alien to me. Someone named Jim Tracy is the Dodgers manager? Who knew? For those names that rang vaguely familiar, my associations -- the Jewish guy, the Canadian reliever with goggles, the hothead who chucked the water bottle -- had little to do with actual hitting, pitching and catching.

It wasn't always thus. Had Scott asked me about the 1984 Dodgers I could have gone around the horn and talked to him for hours. Had he wanted to debate whether Greg Brock or Mike Marshall was a worthy successor to Steve Garvey, I could have obliged. Ron Cey's awkward but oddly effective batting stance? No problem. As a kid, I loved baseball. If there was a game on television, I watched. I spent untold nights turning my bedside radio on its side to optimize reception of Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brenneman calling Strohs-sponsored Cincinnati Reds games. In college I even owned a rotisserie team, Bobby Bonilla's inflated draft rights depriving me of cash that could otherwise have gone to pizza and liquid sustenance.

And now? The other night, I flipped back and forth between the Yankees-Red Sox and the WNBA playoffs.

This diminished interest in baseball has nothing to do with BALCO or the imperialism of big-market teams or the singular churlishness of Barry Bonds. It's ... the ... pace. Leisurely doesn't begin to describe it. Before you get all Roger Angell on the Blog, we're the first to admit that there is a place in this world for adagio. One of the beauties of tennis, the most underrated of sports, is the absence of a clock. But ... baseball ... is ... excruciating.

How ... on ... earth ... does ... it ... sustain ... anyone's ... interest? ... I ... wonder.

As I write this, the playoffs -- "The time you really ought to watch!" we're always told -- are playing out on my TV. I am watching someone named Matt Morris stepping off the rubber. A Houston batter who is not named Bagwell, Berkman or Biggio has stepped out of the box. Morris has just faked a throw to first. There are two relievers in the bullpen. Cameras pan to both managers staring vacantly. After a 40-second interval of nothingness, Morris pitches. Alas the unrecognized batter fouls off the pitch. Then another. Finally, eventually, mercifully, he flies out. But the extended dance remix of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida spans less time that this ultimately meaningless at-bat. And I experienced the same feelings I get when I use dial-up to access the Internet or get stuck behind a tractor in the left lane. Just go already!

I write this as someone pushing the upper limits of the 18-34 demographic. And I can't help but think: If I don't have the patience for baseball, what teenager does? We are a culture of the time-obsessed, of A.D.H.D-diagnosed multi-taskers who operate at twitch speed. We wear off the paint on the "door close" buttons on elevators. We microwave breakfast while we dry our hair and check on e-mail -- DSL, of course. Our real national pastime is hurrying. The sport that has Tony LaRussa walking out to talk to his starter, while Kiko Calero warms up in the bullpen? Hard to see how it's not stepping off the rubber, out of the batters' box and into the tar pits.

It's not you, baseball. It's me. I've changed.

Just ... don't ... have ... the ... kind ... of ... time ... you ... require. ...

Portland Trail Blazers execs John Nash and Steve Patterson (not to be confused with Steve Nash and John Patterson) are to be commended for laying down the law and demanding that their players -- get this -- betray some character to go along with their basketball skills. For too long, a conga line of Blazers found new and amusing ways to embarrass a terrific community and shame what was once the NBA's model franchise. But, boy, Portland forward Qyntel Woods is making a push for First-Team NBA Knucklehead. At best a marginal player, Woods is best known for once offering his basketball trading card as proof of identification when stopped for speeding. He was apprehended earlier this week for his alleged participation in dog-fighting. You simply can't make this stuff up. ...

Have you ever checked out Yahoo!'s list of most popular search terms? What do we make of the fact that Maria Sharapova, Nascar and Fantasy Football generate as much curiosity as George Bush and John Kerry? ...

My esteemed colleague Richard Deitsch has turned me on to the work of Doris Burke during ESPN's women's hoops telecasts. There's no reason why Burke isn't working NBA games for the network. ...

Casual tennis fans, remember the name: Gael Monfils. It's a he. He's from France. And he will be very good, very soon. ...

Speaking of casual fans, the NHL is doing irreparable damage with this work stoppage. The fans may forgive and forget in Toronto and Detroit and Montreal. But the Blog is thinking the good folks in Columbus, Nashville, Raleigh, South Florida and the rest of those "emerging markets" have already found other pastimes. ... We hope these contretemps get settled soon if only so we can resume listening to the Tampa Bay's Dave Mishkin, who, for our money, is the best play-by-play man in the NHL. ...

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune of spending a few days in Memphis and promptly declared the barbecued brisket at The Rendezvous my best road meal of the year. Then I went to Yats in downtown Indianapolis. The Cajun fare compares favorably with anything you'll eat in New Orleans. And all entrees cost $5. ...

Enjoy Shooty Babbitt.

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