Those of us who have studiously avoided the world’s most popular sport have leaned heavily on the defense that no one ever scores in soccer. That has been the real go-to insult, the put-down that keeps on giving.
Yet think about it: In its first two World Cup games, the U.S. scored two goals in each. Over the same period, the Braves averaged 2.6 runs per game. Not nearly a dramatic enough difference. Might soccer actually be the more exciting alternative?
Even in its third game, when the U.S. was shut out by Germany, it won in the long run. Excitement reigned over the fact that it was on to the next round for the Americans; and the shutout was forgotten like the loss of a baby tooth. The same day, the Braves scored a run, lost to the homely Houston Astros, and it was back to wondering how this team is ever going to fog a mirror come September and October.
It remains that the baseball season is nearly halfway done, and the Braves are in peril of turning what has been a trend into a flaw as permanent as a witch’s wart. They teeter on the brink of becoming what they seem: A team that is to the art of run-scoring what karaoke is to opera.
If forced at the point of a pen to admit it, I’d just as soon watch one of soccer’s own writhe on the field after suffering a gnat bite as B.J. Upton looking at third strikes like they were passing comets.
When compared to the sight of the Braves trying to get down a bunt, it is a relative pleasure to watch some nation you’d never visit without an Army escort try to bump a ball past midfield.
When Dan Uggla gets to use his hands on the field as much as a Brazilian midfielder, there is something amiss.
There are places we are used to seeing our zeroes: On computer code; savings account interest rates; a soccer match. Get a steady diet of them in baseball, though, and the eyes do glaze. The Braves are making that particular ovoid integer a fixture on their half of the scoreboard.
We must believe that there is still time to reverse course, that enough bats will awaken in time to produce a chorus of runs rather than the occasional staccato burst. Otherwise the Braves will have succeeded at nothing this season but make soccer look explosive.