Postwar Sports


March 25, 1991|By ANDREI CODRESCU

NEW ORLEANS. — Not many people know this and perhaps not many people should know this, but baseball was invented in Transylvania by Romanian sheep herders. It was called oina, it was played with a stick and a ball, and it was introduced to this country by Romanian immigrants to New York. There is an Oina Federation in Romania dedicated to maintaining and propagating the sport.

I had forgotten this earth-shattering fact until I got a call from a man named Sorin Baleanu, a former wrestling champion from Romania who wanted to tell me about yet another sport invented by Romanians: foot tennis. Mr. Baleanu started a Foot Tennis Foundation here in the United States, and he plans to make foot tennis the sport of the Nineties. I remember playing foot tennis with these really bad guys who smoked cigarettes in a vacant lot behind the school. It was a great sport to be associated with because only the toughest guys played it.

Anyway, I only mention this because sports are going to be bigger than ever now after the war. Not many people realize this, but two of the forces that confronted each other during this war were Sport and Art. Sport won -- by the lopsided score of 40 to 100,000 -- and Art lost. I'd already had a hint of this shortly before the war when my friend Barry Gifford, who's a novelist, called to tell me that he turned down an invitation to the Stockholm Film Festival to come my way for the LSU-Ole Miss game.

But while it is true that sports will be bigger than ever they won't be the same kind of prewar sports. The postwar sports will be more sophisticated, more technical and more simple-minded at the same time.

There will also be more at stake so all kinds of ominous elements will be introduced, things like laser helmets and shoes with real wings, and the complete disappearance of the losers to the strains of the latest Judas Priest CD. In that sense, anything new out of Transylvania should be a big success. In a way, Sport will be more like Art in the near future in the way that Judas Priest is like Goethe's Young Werther, same result, different styles.

See you in the vacant lot.

Andrei Codrescu's book about Romania, ''The Hole in the Flag,'' will be published in June by William Morrow Co.

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