It's official. LG is better than Samsung

While Major League Baseball flounders, the Korean Baseball Organization is preserving sanity for many Americans, including me. And it's all brought to you by tech companies.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Actually, playing a little more like (the) cubs right now.

Screenshot by ZDNet

You may be more patient than me.

You may be holding out for a meager Major League Baseball schedule and an extended postseason to feed rapacious, mendacious team owners with even more luscious lucre.

I can't bear the arrant nonsense spouted by MLB team owners crying poor. So I turned away to Asia, and to the bountiful, beautiful entertainment brought to the world by the Korean Baseball Organization. And for this, I have to thank Korea's tech companies. (Well, and ESPN.)

This 10-team league, you see, consists of many teams owned by familiar tech brands.

And, like those brands, the league itself isn't shy about much at all. The hitters practice, and expertly execute, florid bat flips. Sometimes, when they've only hit a single. Such behavior is frowned upon by our baseball's conservative Supreme Court.

The Korean cheerleaders dance, sing, and try to do any old thing to keep the atmosphere lively. This is a lot harder when the only beings in the stands are stuffed animals. (You may spot SpongeBob.)

Korea, having managed the coronavirus far better than, say, the US, still doesn't allow fans to the games. Which is a pity, as the fans behave in a way American baseball fans wish they could. Or wish they knew how.

Each hitter has his own song. The fans know it and sing it. Every time he comes up to bat. Their passion resembles that of the actors in the new Netflix hit 365 Dni. In intensity, rather than content.

Still, even without the fans, ESPN has been intelligent and generous enough to reveal a little of Korean baseball's charm.

Broadcasts are, for US viewers, in the middle of the night. The US announcers look as if they've just been to a gruesome four-day frat party. It's far too early for them to flex their beautiful voices. Or their world-worn faces. Though I must give special credit to ESPN's Jon Sciambi, who somehow manages to look as if he's having a good time, or is at least actually alive.

At 5pm. every day, I pause and honor this new tech-financed Korean wonder by watching the previous night's ESPN game. (Disclosure: A little fast-forward is sometimes involved.)

Tech companies in Korea embrace marketing like a boa constrictor embraces those it has strong feelings about. So the 10 teams are (mostly) not named after the cities they're in. Instead, welcome to the LG Twins, the Samsung Lions, and the KIA Tigers. (Cars are mere data vessels these days, right?)

It doesn't just stop with the names. Hitters on the Samsung Lions team wear helmets unsubtly adorned on one side with Samsung Galaxy S20/S20+ and with Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra on the other. The LG Twins hitters enjoy reminders about the LG OLED TV on their helmets. Oh, and a plug for 5G on their right bicep.

It's as if the players are swinging tech billboards.

Tech brands less well-known in the US -- SK Telecom, for example -- also have their own teams. The SK Wyverns, it must be admitted, are currently as efficient as a discarded flip phone.

The best team -- at least as I write -- is the NC Dinos. NC is (slightly) short for the NCSoft Corporation, a famed video game developer. But right behind them is LG, a fulsome five places above Samsung, which must incite a raising of (several) glasses in the LG boardroom. Or sauna. (I'm told that Koreans actually compare the performance of the respective brands with the performance of their baseball teams.)

There's an even greater reason to catch a Twins game -- superfan Sangkyu Jeon. He can create a song on a whim, with his wife offering beautiful harmonies in the background. All from their apartment, live on ESPN.

Should you have never drifted to Korean baseball, you might imagine it's full of US castoffs. But no. Each team is only allowed one foreign position player and two foreign pitchers. Most are those who have either not had the opportunity to hit the big leagues or those who managed to make it, but not for very long.

It's true that the standard of play can oscillate between elevated AAA and muffled varsity. The management of fly balls can be akin to the standard of America's rail service. Infielders are discouraged from using the backhand, so they sometimes freeze as the ball is hit to that side and bounces by them.

Yet the players manage to perform with an unreasonable amount of joy, a feeling that Major League Baseball has lost, or rarely quite captured.

I dream, of course, that the example of Samsung, LG, Kia, SK, and the rest can be transposed to our shores.

What if Microsoft, Google, and Apple muscled the dreary, venal, old-school capitalists out of baseball ownership and took over the Google Giants, the Microsoft Mariners, and the Apple Angels (oh, so appropriate)?

What if Giants hitters had Pixel-emblazoned helmets? What if Mariners hitters had Windows 10 on one side of their hats and Surface on the other? What if Angels hitters turned up with Windows 10 on one side of their hats and Sucks on the other?

What if these new tech-owned teams inculcated the game with the same spirit so vividly now being transmitted from Korea?

What if tech could actually make baseball fun again? Tech's got to make something fun in the end, hasn't it?

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