By Norman Chad
Monday, June 28, 2010; D02
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.")
Meanwhile, back outside the ballpark in America, former New York governor/pay-per-view womanizer Eliot Spitzer, it was announced, will be on CNN this fall. With Pulitzer Prize-winning, pro-life columnist Kathleen Parker, Spitzer will host a discussion program -- sort of "Crossfire" with condoms.
Spitzer solicited high-priced call girls while in office: What better qualifications do you need to host your own TV show?
Actually, if Spitzer wanted to see prostitutes, that's fine by me. But if Spitzer wanted to see prostitutes after previously prosecuting others for seeing prostitutes, that makes him a first-ballot Power Punk Hall of Fame inductee.
Client 9's CNN gig proves again that, in America -- particularly on TV -- you can be rewarded for vice as easily as virtue. As a rule, the more notorious you are, the more notoriety you get; the more notoriety you get, the better time slot you're given.
In fact, all of television is a larger version of "The Price Is Right," with disgraced public figures replacing common, everyday folk.
Oliver North, come on down!
Rod Blagojevich, come in down!
Eliot Spitzer, come on down!
(Spitzer calls himself a "pragmatic liberal." I would call him a "pragmatic opportunist." Give him credit: In short order, he's gone from punch line to prime time.)
Spitzer's new program doesn't debut until September. Who knows? By then, Stephen Strasburg might be out of baseball, rob a string of convenience stores and have his own show on truTV.Ask The Slouch
Q. Every once in a while, you write something very stupid (you hate baseball statistics) or very incendiary (auto racing should be abolished). Do you have a fallback position when you're fired? (Martin A. Barry; Houston)
A. I ain't got squadoosh.
Q. Why is baseball so outdated that the communication between the dugout and bullpens is with landlines instead of cellphones or Skype? (C.J. Tompkins; Denver)
A. Skype? You think Diamondbacks Manager A.J. Hinch actually wants to see who's in his bullpen?
Q. Championship teams get to visit the White House. Perfect-game pitchers get to visit David Letterman. Who gets to visit The Slouch? (Frank Alioto; Milwaukee)
A. Process servers.
Q. In the divorce-lawyer community, does the status of your current marriage get more press than the pending free agency of LeBron James? (Craig Gerlock; Macedonia, Ohio)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!