Thursday evenings have become a big event in recent weeks. Putting a long day at work to one side, I sank into a sofa and readied myself for the much-anticipated spectacle to unfold. The tension among the protagonists was palpable and it produced a highly-charged occasion, made memorable by fiery exchanges and disagreements.
Yes, deciding against watching all of the second General Election debate proved to be a very wise move. A game between the New York Yankees and my Oakland A’s is too good to miss at any time, but Thursday’s encounter was even more exciting than usual.
As a baseball fan in the UK, I sometimes feel like I live in a parallel universe. Friday morning was a classic example of this. Every newspaper, TV and radio breakfast show, not to mention most conversations, all focused on the latest Clegg-Brown-Cameron conflab and yet all I could think about was the A’s 4-2 win over the Yankees and the various incidents that had taken place during the game. No one else seemed interested in Dallas Braden’s outburst, the Yankees’ triple play or Kurt Suzuki’s continued good form at the plate against CC Sabathia. It was a familiar case of other people urging me to get my priorities in order, while I was certain that I already had them ordered just right, thank you very much.
I should point out that I do not detach myself completely from politics. I value the importance of casting my vote and think that the new General Election debates are a good idea, a view enhanced by the first debate that proved to be more compelling than many, including myself, expected.
I even watched bits of the second debate in between innings. MPs expenses, immigration, deployment of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Trident: it didn’t cover much new ground. Nick Clegg was on his high horse about MPs flipping houses (didn’t he talk about that last week?), Gordon Brown was smiling (he definitely did that last week and didn’t follow the avalanche of advice that suggested he really shouldn’t repeat the trick), while David Cameron was ever-so-slightly losing his temper about some Labour leaflets. The political commentators tried to whip everyone into a frenzy about the ‘heated exchanges’, claiming that the ‘gloves had come off’ amidst the anger.
Anger? Going a bit red in the face and raising your voice isn’t exactly what I would describe as anger. Anger is when you completely blow your top, hurl a load of abuse at someone and start whacking anything within whacking distance. If you wanted to witness someone getting angry, you should have been watching the Yankees-A’s game.
A’s pitcher Dallas Braden was incensed when the pampered prima donna Alex Rodriguez broke an unwritten rule by running across the pitching mound to get back to the Yankees’ dugout. After giving A-Rod a piece of his mind, Braden was shepherded from the field and took his frustration out on some innocent paper cups and a Gatorade bucket before slamming his glove onto the bench. If those leaflets had really riled Cameron, he could have at least given his podium a hefty kick and squared up to Brown (Clegg was quoted over the weekend as saying that Labour are now “irrelevant”, raising the delightful possibility that he might have stepped in and said “Leave him Dave, he’s not worth it”).
It’s tempting to think that, unless they’re filling in expenses forms, these politicians just don’t put the effort in. In truth, Cameron’s instinct may well have been to confront Brown (or maybe just throw a glass of water at him) but that was never going to happen as the ‘PR’ switch planted in his brain was already flicked into ‘on’ mode. Everyone in the public eye has to maintain a squeaky clean image. It’s an unfortunate consequence of these media-obsessed times that afflicts top sportsmen as much as anyone.
Dallas Braden would not be considered a ‘top’ sportsman, a point that the class-less Rodriguez tried to use to dismiss his complaints. Braden is not an ace and has never wowed scouts with his ability, but he knows how to pitch and gets the most out of his talent. He’s a battler, the sort of person that a fan can relate with. What’s more, he doesn’t feel a need to project any sort of false image. He doesn’t take life too seriously and regularly has the A’s beat writers in stitches, whether holding court at Spring Training while telling tales of his offseason holiday in Amsterdam or laughing off a long home run by saying that it had probably landed on his coffee table in Stockton.
In short, Braden is the kind of player that is easy to root for. Watching him get the better of CC Sabathia and the Yankees before putting A-Rod in his place made for a highly entertaining evening (being an A’s fan helped, I’m sure). Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown both seem to be going for the outsider/underdog vote in this election so maybe they could gain political capital from events across the pond?
It seems a long shot, but if either is seen wearing a “Dallas says: ‘Get off my mound’” T-shirt then the anti-A-Rod vote will be theirs for the taking.
This week’s early MLB game schedule
After a barren start to the week, we’ve got twelve early games to look forward to over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Probable pitching match-ups can be affected by any number of factors (rain-outs, injuries etc), so let’s all cross our fingers in the hope that nothing affects the schedules of Hamels and Lincecum and that they do meet up in what would be a classic encounter on Wednesday. The Jurrjens-Wainwright clash on Thursday is another good-looking game in prospect, while Friday games at Wrigley always make for a great way to start the weekend. All times are in BST.
Monday 26 April
No early games
Tuesday 27 April
27/04 UPDATE: 21.10. LA Dodgers at NY Mets (Hiroki Kuroda – Johan Santana)
Wednesday 28 April
17.10. San Diego at Florida (Kevin Correia – Nate Robertson)
18.10. Pittsburgh at Milwaukee (Paul Maholm – Chris Narveson)
18.10. LA Dodgers at NY Mets (TBD – John Maine)
19.10. Seattle at Kansas City (Ryan Rowland-Smith – Gil Meche)
19.20. Washington at Chicago Cubs (Luis Atiliano – Ryan Dempster)
20.10. Arizona at Colorado (Kris Benson – Greg Smith)
20.45. Philadelphia at San Francisco (Cole Hamels – Tim Lincecum)
Thursday 29 April
18.05. Minnesota at Detroit (Carl Pavano – Dontrelle Willis)
18.40. Atlanta at St. Louis (Jair Jurrjens – Adam Wainwright)
19.05. Chicago White Sox at Texas (Gavin Floyd – Scott Feldman)
19.20. Arizona at Chicago Cubs (Ian Kennedy – Ted Lilly)
Friday 30 April
19.20. Arizona at Chicago Cubs (Rodrigo Lopez – Randy Wells)
All the above games can be followed via various resources on MLB.com (Gameday, At Bat with Gameday Audio and MLB.tv), while ESPN America’s MLB schedule can be found here. A complete schedule of MLB games can be found on MLB.com.