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2006-02-26 15:58
by Ken Arneson

I'm watching live baseball! I just flipped the remote over to something on ESPN Classic called "ESPN Classic Vintage Live: Negro League Baseball presented by Jordan Brand". It's the Bristol Barnstormers vs. the Birmingham Black Barons. I have no idea who these players are, but it's sure nice to see some live baseball, no matter who is playing. They're also doing some Negro Leagues reminiscing. As I write, it's tied 8-8 in the eighth innning.

* * *

Seems appropriate that baseball would show up on the scene the day the Winter Olympics ended. I'm a big fan of Swedish winter sports, a leftover from my three years spent enduring the long, dark winters of Scandinavia. I've been on a bit of a high all day long, ever since the Swedish hockey team won the gold medal this morning, beating arch-rival Finland 3-2.

It's hard to underestimate how big a deal this is in Sweden. Sweden had won Olympic and World Championship hockey gold before, but never in a context where all the top NHL players participated. This victory puts this hockey team into the very top circle of all-time Swedish sports legends, alongside Ingemar Stenmark and Björn Borg. They'll be talking about Nicklas Lidström's slapshot, and Henrik Lundqvist's last-second save forever. An instant classic.

I've spent the afternoon browsing Swedish websites for reactions. My favorite was listening to the Swedish Radio highlights (be patient, it's a little slow to load), featuring all five goals, plus the frantic final minute where Lundqvist made his save. Even if you don't understand Swedish, I'll bet it's kinda fun to listen to, because the radio announcer goes absolutely bonkers. Plus, the guy speaks so fast, he's hard to understand even if you speak Swedish. But the emotions are clear.

* * *

That's why I think I'm going to like the World Baseball Classic. Because for smaller countries like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, the chance to compete in your national sport is something special. I'm American, and I should probably root for my own country, but I don't think if we win, it will be a big deal for us. I'm kinda hoping one of the smaller countries wins. It would mean so much more to them.

* * *

A Birmingham player steals third, and scores on an error. Seems like an appropriate way to win a Negro League tribute game. Black Barons win, 9-8.

2006-02-26 17:20:40
1.   Bob Timmermann
Jim Lampley called the hockey game a "Nordic grudge match".
2006-02-26 17:27:07
2.   Ken Arneson
The first period was pretty boring--typical Nordic defensive battle. But it picked up in the second period--the momentum swung a couple of times back and forth.

One of these days, Finland's going to beat Sweden in one of these finals, and it'll be like the Red Sox finally beating the Yankees in a big game. It's gotta really hurt to lose to your rivals because of a broken stick on the opening faceoff of the final period.

2006-02-26 18:25:02
3.   Sam DC
*typical Nordic defensive battleP

This does not sound boring to me at all, but then again I'm imagining battlements and valkyries and Heavy Metal-esque bodyhugging armor.

2006-02-26 18:25:21
4.   Bob Timmermann
I didn't know until yesterday that all Finns are required to learn Swedish in school.

Thank God that most of them can speak English too since they have one of the world's most impenetrable languages.

2006-02-26 18:25:22
5.   Sam DC
typical Nordic defensive battle

This does not sound boring to me at all, but then again I'm imagining battlements and valkyries and Heavy Metal-esque bodyhugging armor.

2006-02-26 18:26:23
6.   Sam DC
3 thought i'd caught that before hitting submit . . .
2006-02-26 18:54:22
7.   Adam B
As a Rangers fan, I was quietly watching the Swedes rooting for Lundqvist
2006-02-26 19:10:56
8.   Bob Timmermann
If Detroit wins the Stanley Cup, five players will join the small group of players to pull off an Olympic gold-Stanley Cup double in the same year.

Ken Morrow - 1980
Steve Yzerman - 2002
Brendan Shanahan - 2002

2006-02-26 20:26:43
9.   Jon Weisman
I was impressed to find when I visited Scandanavia that basically everyone in Finland speaks at least three languages.
2006-02-26 21:50:36
10.   Bob Timmermann
Seeing my father puzzling over a Pizza Hut menu in Finnish was quite a sight.

I think we just ordered pepperoni.

2006-02-26 22:11:35
11.   deadteddy8
If anything, I hope this means that people will think less harshly upon the Salt Lake City team that lost to Belarus. I remember Tommy Salo as a very good goalie.

NY Daily News Article:

2006-02-26 22:43:33
12.   Ken Arneson
Yes, much like the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 somewhat absolved Bill Buckner, I would think that this victory absolves Tommy Salo.

Although Salo was the winning goalie for the Lillehammer gold medal, so he wasn't quite as reviled as Buckner. At least he did have something good on his resume before his gaffe.

2006-02-28 22:35:52
13.   Tom C
Funny thing: I spent two years in Scandanavia myself (SUOMI-Finland), however, I am not fond of hockey or soccer! So, I taught Finns how to play baseball (and not their version, wow that was a weird cricket-esque game)! I also joined the Baseball Federation of Finland and taught them how to score games. Pretty amazing playing baseball at 2am lemme tell ya....Another oddity, I learned Finnish pretty well even though I lived in a Swedish-speaking village!
2006-02-28 22:39:06
14.   Tom C
re: comment 9

They may have spoke 3 languages, however, English was not usually one of them! Mostly Finnish, Swedish, Russian/German.....I pretty much had to learn Finnish quick, especially since Armenians (which I am 50%) were about as hard to find as American-born cabbies in NYC.....

2006-02-28 22:45:19
15.   Tom C
re #4:

Bob, believe it or not, Finnish is not that hard to pick up. It is pronounced as its written which hepls tremendously. I suppose speaking another language other than English gave me an advantage (though Armenian is next to impossible if you are not born into it) though....Funny thing - my ex-wife was 'Satu' which means fable, but sattu (extra pronounciation on the 2nd t) means 'in pain,' which is what happens to my mind when I think about her now! Hah!

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