As Nick Swisher was getting himself tagged out at home in the seventh inning of yesterday's game, my TiVo announced it was changing the channel. This was not the TiVo's editorial comment on Nick Swisher's base-running prowess -- at least I don't think it was -- but part of a standing order the machine has to record anything involving the Chelsea Football Club whenever such programming appears on the television.
Some background on how I came to root for Chelsea is probably in order, especially in light of the fact that the only amount of time I've ever spent in England was the hour it took me to change planes in Heathrow six years ago. But in 2001, someone loaned me a copy of Fever Pitch -- the book, mind you, and not the substandard Jimmy Fallon motion picture -- and that, plus the presence of Fox Sports World on my cable system plus the 2002 World Cup got me interested in soccer in general and the English Premiership in particular. And as I watched more and more matches, I found myself developing an affinity for Chelsea and players like Gianfranco Zola, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Graeme La Saux.
In the subsequent years, all three of those players either retired or moved on to other clubs, and Chelsea got bought by a Russian billionaire who went all Steinbrenner on us, shelling out hundreds of millions of pounds? dollars? krugerrands? for the top talent in Europe. Chelsea has won the last two Premiership titles after winning one title in the previous 100 years of the club's existence -- putting me in the rare position of actually rooting for the overwhelming favorite.
The take-away point here: they were OK-to-good when I started following them, so I take full credit for their remarkable rise over the past few years. I suppose the Russian billionaire deserves some of the credit, too.
Anyhow, the TiVo switched away from the A's-Mariners game to record the MLS All Star Game, featuring the best that Major League Soccer has to offer -- pause for knowing chuckles -- in an exhibition against Chelsea. Just to underscore the Russian billionaire's largesse, 16 players on Chelsea's roster played in the 2006 World Cup -- 11 of those players are traveling with the team on this current exhibition tour of the U.S. The starting lineup in Saturday's game featured such luminaries as Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien, John Terry, and Paulo Ferreira. Joe Cole and Arjen Robben were reduced to coming off the bench.
Which makes me wonder: Any chance can we get the Russian billionaire interested in buying an East Bay-based baseball team?
Nothing against Lew Wolff and his quest to build highly-profitable condos and oh-yeah-maybe-a-stadium-too-somewhere for the baseball team he owns. But what I'd like to see is a A's owner with enough capital, ego, and disregard for competitive balance to spend large swaths of his vast fortune on acquiring top baseball players just because he can. It'd be a nice change of pace from the coupon-clipping mentality we've become accustomed to here in the East Bay.
So let's do what we can to get the Russian billionaire interested in buying a chunk of the A's. Let's pass along the word that the A's sudden interest in soccer gives him the opportunity to extend his vast sporting empire. Let's send him anonymous notes suggesting that owning a baseball team is something that all the cool billionaires are doing these days. Let's get him a copy of Fever Pitch -- the substandard Jimmy Fallon movie and not the book -- with a note along the lines of "Surely, you can use your billions to improve upon this."