MIKE PESCA, host:
Ah, the sporting life. Hale fellows engaged in competition on the fields of play, or two countries at each other's throats, screaming their heads off. Either way, BPP sports analyst, Bill Wolff, joins us to dissect. Hello, Bill.
BILL WOLFF: Well - and good morning to you, sir.
PESCA: Good morning, good morning. So Spain beat Germany in the Euro 2008 Final yesterday.
WOLFF: So it seems.
PESCA: Yeah, one goal, one goal...
PESCA: All game. I guess they say the United States - people in the U.S. don't like that, but in the bars in Brooklyn that I were at, a lot of Spaniards and a lot of Germans, or people of the - that particular extraction, seemed to be, as I said, cheering their heads off. You think soccer is making a penetration into the U.S. market?
WOLFF: I never thought I'd say so, but yeah. I work with neither Spaniards nor Germans, nor Turks nor Russians. I work mainly with red-blooded Americans who like baseball and football, and...
(Soundbite of laughter)
PESCA: By the way, are the Germans or the Spanish, what color is their blood? I've always wondered about that.
(Soundbite of laughter)
PESCA: Does it flow in the national flag?
WOLFF: I'm not at liberty to speculate at this point, but...
PESCA: He's a sports analyst, not a phlebotomist. Please continue.
WOLFF: That's exact...
(Soundbite of laughter)
WOLFF: But all these guys were completely obsessed with the European Cup this year. All day long there'd be a game on ESPN, which tells you something right there.
WOLFF: And all these guys, none of whom has any sort of particular allegiance to any of the European teams, I don't think, were freaking out, were watching it all day long, and the final between Germany and Spain was on ABC on a Sunday afternoon. And granted, it was a sort of a slow time in the mainstream American sporting world. You know, baseball's dragging toward the dog days. There's really no football. Basketball's over, and all the rest of it.
But it - the European Soccer Championships became the biggest story in sports for about the last week and a half. Ad I think what's interesting is it wasn't an American soccer team that helped soccer to penetrate the sporting consciousness. It was the European Championships, and by the way, European Championships without England.
WOLFF: Which, you know, most Americans relate to England, because they talk like we do, except for their funny accents.
PESCA: And if they know one soccer - right, and if they know one soccer player, they know David Beckham. So they...
PESCA: Maybe people from the U.S. didn't even know any of the players. But can you - what can you tell us about Spain? I heard one analogy, analogizing the Spanish team's history to our beloved Chicago Cubs?
WOLFF: Well, they haven't won the European Championship in decades, and Germany, from what I gather - and I cannot even pretend to be a soccer expert, although I'd like to pretend, I can't, because honesty is the best policy. But from what I gather, the Spanish haven't won the European Championship in decades, and the Germans were favored, that the Germans were considered to be throughout the tournament, the best team in the tournament.
But the Spaniards, from what I gather, and I watched a little bit, were simply faster and controlled the ball. That is, soccer is a possession game. Whoever has the ball has the best chance. It's so simple, but it is so true, and I guess that the Spaniards were quicker and more deft at controlling the ball, and didn't give the Germans a chance to make whatever limited offense it takes to win a soccer match. And so here you have it, and they were freaked.
What - your intro was apt. I think one thing that compels Americans as they get into at least European, and every four years, World Cup soccer, to watch entire countries lose their minds over a game, is something else. I mean, they speak of the color and the pageantry, of course. There's nothing like the color and the pageantry of international soccer. And you know, like, there's the president of Spain is in the crowd going nuts, not trying to compose himself, not trying to be diplomatic, you know, just losing it.
And this was true. Every head of state from every country in Europe put politics and governing on the back burner in order to pay attention to the soccer. So I actually think that this year's - this was a watershed, in at least the American sporting consciousness, as people got into the European Soccer Championships, myself included. I thought that was interesting.
PESCA: Well, the analogy to the Cubs...
PESCA: Was because the Spanish always seem to have this very interesting team. They always seem to have a lot of potential, and then the ball - well, I guess you can't say "goes through their hands," because that's not allowed in soccer, but things have not seemed to work out for them, which brings us to the actual Cubs. This year, I would say...
WOLFF: Yes. About this, I would say I am something of an expert.
PESCA: You are an expert. You're a Cubs detractor, as a lifelong St Louis Cardinal fan.
WOLFF: I am a Cub hater.
PESCA: But you do - you would admit, perhaps, that not only do they have the best record on paper in the National League, they do seem to be the class of the National League. Yet what happened to the Cubs when they played their cross-town rivals, the White Sox, this weekend?
WOLFF: They got beat three straight.
WOLFF: Yes, I will not - I will absolutely - I will cower in fear at the fact the Cubs are, in my view, easily the best team in the National League. And they went down - last weekend they played on the north side of Wrigley Field where the Cubs are at home, and they swept the White Sox. And you know, the White Sox versus the Cubs, that is European soccer. Those guys - those two teams and their fans despise one another, and this last weekend, they went to the Southside, to the new Comiskey Park, I think it's called, like...
PESCA: Cellular One.
WOLFF: Cellular-phone-battery stadium part two...
PESCA: Yeah, right.
WOLFF: And the White Sox handled the Cubs. Part of it is that the Cub's best pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, was on the disabled list with a hurt shoulder. He'll be back and is apparently going to pitch in St Louis against the Cardinals on Friday. So the Cubs were without their best pitcher.
PESCA: And you're excited about that, right? That they missed the White Sox in their rotation and they get the Cardinals, yeah, yeah.
WOLFF: What are you going to do? The world just isn't fair sometimes. But the White Sox are also an excellent team, and so, what's interesting is that both the Cubs and the White Sox spent most of the 20th century, literally most of the 20th century, stinking, and here we are at the beginning of the 21st century, and it could be - White Sox are in first place in their division, and are one of the best teams. They already won the World Series in 2005.
They are one of the best teams in the American league this year, and the Cubs, I - this - you know, they always say this is the Cub's year, and the Cubs somehow screw it up. "CUBS," in St Louis stands for Completely Useless By September, but I don't think that's true this year. I think the Cubs are the best team in the National League. And I think the White Sox are among a small handful of the best teams in the American League, and so, there you had baseball supremacy being fought for on the Southside of Chicago, and that has really, not since the first or second decade of the 20th century, been even possible.
And yeah, the White Sox swept the Cubs at Comiskey in three compelling games. And I will also say this, for those who aren't huge sports fans, there are no louder, more impassioned and lunatic fans in the world than Chicago fans. So, when you hear roars at either Wrigley Field or at Comiskey Park on the Southside of Chicago, it's - it is - it's like watching an auto race without mufflers. I mean, they absolutely go bananas. So, this little sort of baseball civil war over the weekend was fun TV. It was fun to watch and I'm sure it was unbelievable to be at the game.
PESCA: Now, it was a weekend of cross-town rivalries. The Angels played the Dodgers, the Mets played the Yankees, and if you heard bombast in New York, it was likely coming from Yankee announcer, John Sterling. He always wraps up each win with a cry. The cry after the win against the Mets on Saturday set a record. Let's hear it.
(Soundbite of baseball game broadcast)
Mr. JOHN STERLING (Sportscaster, New York Yankees): (Yelling) Ball game over, Yankees win! The Yankees win!
PESCA: So that was a 6.12 second - there's a website that counts how long he goes for. Are you a fan of this particular technique of announcing?
WOLFF: Not particularly, although I do allow for some homer-ism among baseball play-by-play guys. I mean, they do travel with the team, and they call all 162 games, and so I'll allow it. I mean, you know, Harry Carey did it. Even the great Jack Buck did it. You can't help but route for the team you call and know each day. Sterling's a little over the top. Plus, we all know about the Yankees.
PESCA: A little over the top...
PESCA: And you know, you mentioned Jack Buck. I only have a second. He was, my opinion, best baseball announcer. He was a St Louis Cardinal announcer. Tell me...
WOLFF: Ooh, do you want to go on a date?
(Soundbite of laughter)
WOLFF: That is music to my ears.
PESCA: Ah, he was so in the moment. He was - he would just go crazy, go crazy. Anyway...
WOLFF: Grow cazy (ph), go crazy, folks.
PESCA: Yeah, famous Ozzie Smith's homerun. BPP's sports analyst, Bill Wolff, we've agreed to see other people, but still, thanks for coming on the BPP.
WOLFF: Well, you're forever a friend for saying what you said.
(Soundbite of music)
PESCA: Coming up, what makes good people do bad things? The origins of evil. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.