|We're talkin' baseball ... in Russia|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
The Berlin Wall crumbled, the Soviet Empire collapsed and the golden arches rose in the shadows of Red Square. But America's victory in the Cold War truly became official last week when it was announced that Russian TV will carry the World Series this October.
Will America's national pastime translate into Russian? Page 2 considers the possibilities ...
"My partner again tonight is Alexei Gagarin, the esteemed former national columnist for Pravda. Alexei, the Cubs are one win away from the prize that has eluded them for 95 years. With one more victory over Oakland, they will win the World Series for the first time since 1908. Cubs fans have been waiting a long, long time for this, Alexei."
GAGARIN: "Ninety-five years -- Bah! Do not talk to me about long waits in America. I tell you what Americans know of long waits -- NOTHING! America is land of instant gratification. Americans want porno movie, they order over on-demand digital -- poof! -- no wait! They want porno book, they order Amazon.com same-day delivery -- poof! -- wait is over! Russians, we know of long waits. My friend, you stand in line for meat when Brezhnev is premiere, now that is long wait. Ninety-five years, that is nothing! NOTHING! My mother and grandmother wait 95 years just for potatoes at marketplace. And when they reach end of line, they are told, 'No more potatoes! Come back tomorrow!' COME BACK TOMORROW!
"And Cubs fans talk about long waits? I spit on Cubs!"
RENKO: "Very interesting perspective, Alexei, but it's just about time for the first pitch and we'll get to that right after this word from the official sponsor of the World Series in Russia.''
[THE COMMERCIAL OPENS ON DANK, DARK ROOM WHERE A LONE LAMP THROWS LIGHT ON A MAN WHO IS TIED TO A CHAIR. HIS BLOODIED HEAD HANGS DOWN AND HE CLEARLY HAS BEEN TORTURED BY THE TWO ENORMOUS RUSSIAN MAFIA THUGS WHO STAND ON EITHER SIDE OF HIM. THEY ARE JOINED BY A FAT MAN IN A DARK SUIT AND MUCH BLING. THE NEW MAN TAKES A SEAT AND ADDRESSES THE MAN TIED TO THE CHAIR.]
HEAD MAFIOSO: Well, Fyodr, I have some good news.
FYODR: You're not going to kill me for opening a Hooter's on Red Square without I pay you protection money?
HEAD MAFIOSO: No, I just saved $180 on my car insurance by switching to Geiko. And that's $180, not worthless rubles.
HEAD MAFIOSO: Slice off his fingers and feed them to the sables.
[BACK TO THE BROADCAST BOOTH]
RENKO: Welcome back to Wrigley Field, where Kerry Wood is taking the mound. Wood, of course, threw a gem in the series opener, shutting out Oakland on two hits and striking out a World Series record 18 batters.''
GAGARIN: "That was boring game. Was like listening to Andropov speak at quarterly Politburo meetings. Give me passion and drama of Russian athletics. Give me wrestling, shot-put and weight-lifting! That is real sport!"
RENKO: "Alexei, I'm sure many fans would agree with you, but let's get back to the game, where Oakland just took a 1-0 lead. The Athletics are an extraordinary story in their own right. They have reached the postseason four consecutive years despite having one of the smallest payrolls in baseball. General manager Billy Beane has worked magic with a limited budget, Alexei."
GAGARIN: "Limited budget -- Bah! Do not talk to me about budget limitations in America. I will tell you what Americans know of budget limitations -- NOTHING! They need money, they go to ATM, they pull out platinum credit card -- poof! -- no more budget limitations. Russians, we know about budget limitations. Leningrad during the 900-day siege, that is a small market, my friend. My family lived on one kilo of meat and one loaf of bread a month -- and that was when we have ration book. We lose ration book and then we have nothing. NOTHING! All there is to eat is wallpaper paste! I tell you, my friend, after another month, wallpaper paste begins to taste good! And Billy Beane talk about his limited budget. I spit on Billy Beane!"
RENKO: "Again, that's insightful information, Alexei. But we must move on to the bottom of the third and the Aeroflot 'Fly, Fly Away' Inning! If a batter hits a home run this inning, a lucky fan will win a one-way flight to lovely Lake Baikal from Russia's national airline. Sammy Sosa leads off for the Cubs and he will be batting this inning for Nicolai Petrakov of St. Petersburg.
GAGARIN: "Is true. Is well-known fact all Americans use steroids. They begin as babies sucking it from mother's teat; and by adulthood, they are covered with acne and their testicles have become like raisins. They would love to make wild love to beautiful Russians like Anna Kournikova, but they are impotent! Yes, is true! Russians do not need these steroids! Russian wheat is all the nutrients we need! Shoveling snow in Russian winters are the only workout we need! Even now, I could defeat their Sammy Sosa! Feel my bicep! Go on -- FEEL IT!"
RENKO: "Very impressive."
GAGARIN: "And I am 67 years old! Guess how much I can bench-press! Go on -- GUESS!"
RENKO: "I really don't know, Alexei."
GAGARIN: "Two-hundred sixty pounds! And I press that three times! Eat on that, Arnold Schwarzenegger!"
RENKO: "Speaking of eating, we had a wonderful meal last night after the game at Morton's Steakhouse. They certainly know their steak in this town, Alexei. And Morton's just opened three steakhouses in Russia, including their newest in St. Petersburg, right across the street from the Hermitage.''
GAGARIN: "Morton steaks are so thick not even babushka can eat entire one after failure of Russian wheat crop!''
RENKO: "That's Morton's for steaks. Now, let's turn our attention back to the game, where Zito has just retired the Cubs in order, sending us to the top of the seventh, which is the Stolichnaya Vodka 'The Bags Are Loaded' Inning. If the Athletics load the bases this inning, a lucky fan will receive 24 cases of Stolichnaya vodka, or just about enough for January. The next hitter is Mark Ellis, who will be batting for Sergei Federov of Kiev. ''
GAGARIN: Would you like to arm-wrestle? I beat you easily."
RENKO: "Ummmmm, maybe after the game. Right now, we should get back to the game, where Miguel Tejada is batting. The windup and the pitch -- swung on and belted deep to center! That ball is going, going and 'Get Out The Telescopes, Sputnik Is Back In Orbit!' A three-run homer for Miguel Tejada!"
GAGARIN: "Wood fell behind and got fastball up in strike zone there, Dmitri. Can't do that at this level.''
RENKO: "That gives Oakland a 4-0 lead and the way Zito is pitching, I think that will about seal the victory for the Athletics. And look, there's Alexsandr Kissoff, the teenage star of RBC's hit comedy, "That 70s Show,'' sitting behind the Cubs dugout. Be sure to watch the exciting season premiere next Wednesday. When KGB agents catch Kissoff wearing Levi jeans and listening to bootleg copies of the Rolling Stones, the entire family is banished to work camps in Siberia.''
GAGARIN: ''The good old days.''
RENKO: ''Well, Keith Foulke retires the side in the ninth, so the Cubs will have to wait at least one more game as this series returns to Oakland. Remember, that will be Nesting Doll Night and all our viewers will be eligible to win a free Mark Prior Nesting Doll.''
GAGARIN: "Doll is very beautiful, yes. But I prefer Eric Chavez Rubber Duck ... "
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.