This one we couldn't lose. Right?
A half-inning in and already the team from the good old USA -- Lewisville, Pa., just 90 or so miles down the road -- was eight runs to the good on the interlopers from Japan. No one loses an eight-run lead in the championship game of the Little League World Series, right?
Not in America's Pastime. Not in, you know, that game we either stole from the British, or that Abner Doubleday didn't invent, or that was once so synonymous with this country that Japanese soldiers in some green Pacific hell used to taunt American Marines with shouts of "(Bleep) Babe Ruth!"
But that was years ago, in World War II.
Japan's one of our staunchest allies now. More to the point, their kids are better at baseball than ours are.
And so, the team from Japan blinked once yesterday, then came out swinging. By the third inning, the game was tied, 10-10. By the time the Japanese kids laid on five gilding-the-lily runs in the sixth, the title was theirs, 18-11, the fourth Japanese victory in the LLWS in six years.
That nearly matches Taiwan's record of five straight LLWS titles back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and here's what really stings: America's all-time record against an international opponent in the LLWS championship game is now 15-35.
Fifteen-and-35. Even the Cubs have a better all-time won-loss, and they haven't won the World Series in 107 years.
What this tells us is America's Pastime is merely past its time, and probably long past its time. American kids spend theirs summers playing soccer and basketball and (preparing for the real American Pastime) 7-on-7 football now. Baseball, for a lot of them, is just something they used to play.
These days, you have to leave the country to find places where it's still a consuming thing, an irony that's not all that ironic. America, after all, has always been a champion exporter. Those kids from Japan, they're just the legacy of America's post-World War II benevolence. We helped our beaten enemies to their feet, and then -- although we'd actually introduced them to the game some years before -- we handed them baseball bats.
Which, of course, they used to full effect in Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday afternoon.
If only we'd introduced them to badminton instead.