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Another Iceland emerges in international sports


Here’s one for you:

Which is the better story: Iceland at the 2016 Euros or Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic?

In case you haven’t been paying attention, and I presume the vast majority of you haven’t, Israel won its first two games at the WBC in shocking fashion, beating South Korea 2-1 in 10 innings first and then rolling 15-7 over Taiwan.

They have another first round game left, against Netherlands, and since they’re playing in Seoul it might have already happened and I missed it because I can never figure what day it is once the International Dateline comes into play.

Anyway, the upshot is that the two wins should get Israel into the second round of the tournament, just like two shocking wins made Iceland the darlings of the Euros last summer.

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You do remember that, right? Beat England in the round of 16 and captured the attention of the soccer world before being drubbed by France in the quarter-finals; it was a big-time fun run.

So the question probably boils down to this:

Is a non-baseball playing country beating two mighty opponents worth more than a soccer minnow going through the first round of what’s maybe the best tournament on Earth?

Who ya got?

Me, I got Iceland.

Not to take anything away from what Israel’s done but it’s a team that’s populated by professionals who get to represent the country just because they have some link – parental, mainly – to Israel. Of the 36 players in the available pool, 35 were born in the United States.

Iceland?

That was a helluva story and the magnitude of the win over England was incredible. Like Israel, it’s a country with no history in the sport that came out of nowhere to provide a fortnight of Cinderella dreams.

But given the relative magnitude of the Euros compared to the WBC, that’s how I give Iceland the nod.

I guess the biggest thing right now is that no one’s paying much attention to what Israel’s doing because, first, the World Baseball Classic with its pitch limits, expanded rosters and timing on the calendar is somewhat bogus and, second, playing a first round in South Korea hardly draws the attention of the North American media.

It’s too bad, really, because it’s a great story and they were a couple of huge upsets perpetrated by minor leaguers against giants of the game and it should have attracted more interest.

When in NOLA ….

So the day’s been a rush, the practice, getting to the airport in time, get through security, take a train to some silly satellite terminal where the best you can find is a prefab $ 9.50 ham and cheese sandwich (sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Accounting) and it’s pouring rain in New Orleans because it’s always pouring rain in New Orleans it seems and you get checked in and stop by the lobby bar to take the edge off the day.

I’ll have an Abita Amber, please.”

“Here you are, sir, but it’s the last one we have.”

Yep, one of those days.

Another call for mail over at askdoug@thestar.ca, please. Get off your mind anything that’s on it if you feel like it, no subject off limits.

With the way the schedule’s shaping up, looks like we’ll load up the mail on Sunday morning but I’ll have typing time each of the next two days so earlier is better.

Oh, speaking of schedules, have somehow gotten myself on a 7:30 a.m. flight tomorrow so that means a stupid early wakeup call so we might be later than usual here.

Big old hat tip to our guy Jack Armstrong, who won a Canadian Screen Award for best sports analyst for his work during the 2016 Raptors playoff run.

Jack’s one of the best — on TV, on a stool, pretty much everywhere — and was well deserving of the award.

I’m just ticked he’s off enjoying a little break with his family before meeting us later in the week because a celebratory glass or six last night would have been good.

Guess we’ll have to find another night on the road.

One of the things I’m most proud of in this little endeavour we undertake here is the attempt to give women’s sports at least part of what its due.

It’s not enough, I don’t know how it could be, but you know I think it’s hugely important that young girls have role models across the spectrum of all sports because, as was once told me by someone far smarter than I involved in women’s sports “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

And that’s why the women who play sports at a high level are so important to the athletic development of youngsters who want it, just as why the women in our industry are important to aspiring journalists; same with lawyers and doctors and businesswomen of every ilk.

But my little fiefdom is sports and basketball in particular and I can speak first hand for the impact the national team program has had on young women across the country.

The women I wrote about unfailingly told me every time I asked that they took their responsibility as role models extremely seriously, it was almost as important as winning, it was their legacy and it was important to them.

I’ve kind of lost touch with a lot of those women since Rio finished and that’s too bad. I track their careers from afar and am sure that at least some of the girls they reached out to after games, practices, whatever, are doing the same thing.

This being International Women’s Day and all, I thought it was important to once again remind you that there Canadian women people should be proud of as much because of what they’ve gone for future generations as what they did for themselves.

TORONTO STAR | SPORTS | DOUG_SMITHS_SPORTS_BLOG

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