Couch Slouch: Behold the Stephen Strasburg and Eliot Spitzer success stories

By Norman Chad
Monday, June 28, 2010

To understand America -- I was an American studies major at the University of Maryland, so I've been doing this for a long time and, trust me, it involves a lot of parking tickets and Pabst Blue Ribbon -- you need to look no further than Stephen Strasburg and Eliot Spitzer, two self-made-in-the-USA-in-their-own-way success stories.

Strasburg has come tumbling into our homes the old-fashioned way: through sporting achievement. Spitzer soon will be tumbling into our homes again the newfangled way: through public embarrassment.

(In sports, you still pretty much have to succeed to make it to the top; outside of sports, you can fail, even spectacularly, and make it to the top.)

In the last decade or so, we have had three hyped-to-the-hills athletes:

Tiger Woods, LeBron James and, now, Stephen Strasburg. Improbably, all three have met -- if not exceeded -- expectations.

(Imagine if that ever happened with our elected leaders.)

Of course, Strasburg could still flame out -- a pitcher's arm is more dicey than a Goldman Sachs hedge fund -- but, at the moment, he's the greatest thing to hit the nation's capital since the 23rd amendment.

Strasburg is two parts Sidd Finch, one part Roy Hobbs -- except he's real. In his first three starts at home for the Washington Nationals, Strasburg has 33 strikeouts and no walks. In a 1-0 loss last week to the Kansas City Royals, he threw 75 strikes in 95 pitches.

He has such command of four pitches, if you gave him a military convoy, I'd bet he could strike out and find Osama bin Laden by nightfall.

Every five days Strasburg comes onto my TV, and every five days I stop everything I'm doing -- granted, that isn't much -- to watch the 21-year-old pitch.

I witnessed every pitch Strasburg threw in his first three starts; I don't even think I blinked. I couldn't take my eyes off of him or his 89-mph change-up. And we're talking baseball on TV! My friends, I had not watched a regular season baseball game on television start to finish since Tim McCarver was bloviating from a crouched position.

(To be sure, when the Nationals were at-bat and Strasburg was in the dugout, I made myself a grilled cheese, yelled at my stepkids and checked my pre-nup. And the moment Strasburg was pulled from each game, I switched over to a TiVo-ed "Sopranos" episode faster than you can say "Sammy Gravano.")

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