What the United States, Russia, and Major League Baseball Have in Common

October 1st, 2015


Watching events unfold between Russia and the United States in Syria is excruciating. On Friday, the The Martian will come to theaters across America. While The Martian is the story of an astronaut left behind in space, just the thought of extraterrestrial life makes one wonder.

Based on current events, if a Martian landed on Earth today, who would he guess is the superpower?

With yesterday’s arrival at the United States Embassy in Baghdad of a Russian envoy delivering demands that the United States get out of Syria because the Russians were beginning bombing operations in that country, presumably to fight ISIS but instead dropping ordinance on opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it is clear that the Russians are attempting to exert tremendous influence in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the United States continues to appear bent on exiting that stage.

I’m a huge baseball fan and with the pennant races in their final week (Go Texas Rangers!), I think there is an analogy to be drawn here.

Consider, for example, the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. It’s a battle for baseball dominance that’s gone on for decades. At various times and under different circumstances one team or the other has emerged on top of the American League East division. This year, neither team won it (the Toronto Blue Jays claimed that prize), but the Yankees hold a glimmer of hope of going to the World Series via a Wild Card slot while the Red Sox season is all but over.

So what happened when the Red Sox and Yankees met earlier this week? Did the Red Sox quit? Well, I didn’t see every game, but I did catch the game Tuesday night when in the first inning the Red Sox rocked the Yankees for six runs before the Yankees even had a turn at bat.

In baseball, the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry is deadly serious and nothing will ever stop either team from seeking dominance over the other. All season long, the team on top is constantly looking in its rearview mirror to make certain that its most bitter rival isn’t poised to surpass it.

That’s kind of fun when it’s an organized spectator sport. It’s downright dangerous, however, when it’s two countries vying for ultimate power.

In international foreign relations terms, that’s what we have here. It’s the Yankees and the Red Sox only without the bats and balls. Instead, it’s armies, air power, and weapons that could theoretically obliterate parts of the planet.

In baseball terms, the United States is the New York Yankees. We’re leading now. But it’s just today. That doesn’t mean it will always be that way, and this is the problem.

For some reason, we’ve operated since the end of the Cold War under the assumption that there is a new status quo that won’t change. The U.S.S.R. disintegrated and with it went the power and influence of Russia.

Vladimir Putin and the Russians don’t appear to see it that way. For a while, we’ve acted as though we view the Russians as simply being in denial. It wasn’t a matter of the dynamics changing, it was simply a matter of the Russians finally coming to grips with and accepting their new lot in life.

Russia appears clearly bent on taking advantage of our naiveté in this regard. Where we provide a void, they will fill it. If we won’t stop them, they will continue to move forward until they win the pennant as it were.

Putin has made no secret of his belief that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a mistake he intends to fix.

In the baseball world, the conventional thinking is that even though the Red Sox didn’t fare so well this year, they are a young team with a huge upside next season. In fact, they could very well win the American League East again very soon.

Let’s hope then that the analogy ends there. Unless the United States takes Russian acts and aggressions very seriously, however, we may not be so lucky.

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