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Updated: May 10, 2010, 1:22 AM ET

What Dallas Braden did, now that was cool

By Steve Berthiaume
ESPN
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Recently, I've found myself defending baseball a lot, whether it's with people I come across in conversation or something I read or listen to on sports talk radio. It includes the attitude that accompanies this particular point of view, as if taking shots at baseball's idiosyncrasies became something that "the cool kids" in school do, like making fun of a nerdy science teacher and then high-fiving your buddies in the hallway.

[+] EnlargeDallas Braden
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireDallas Braden showed just how much fun baseball can be Sunday.

It's got a Karate Kid/Cobra Kai vibe to it. I find this depressing because so much about the game is being missed. Then the Athletics' Dallas Braden threw a perfect game Sunday and I thought, "Thanks Dallas, you're proving my point."

I noticed that much of this recent "cool kid" trend started when Braden blasted Alex Rodriguez for jogging across his pitcher's mound on April 22. When Braden brought up baseball's "unwritten rules" it seemed to fire the starting gun for NFL draftniks, MMA fans and LeBron followers to all start scoffing at the very notion of "unwritten rules" as another example of baseball as an archaic dinosaur. (Yes, it did then occur to me that folks who enjoy humans fighting in cages probably aren't big on the subtleties of unwritten rules in the first place.) I heard one host, a brilliant guy I respect and to whom I listen frequently, joke about wanting to SEE this book of unwritten rules and blow the dust and spider webs off its weathered cover. I just thought, "C'mon dude, you are better than this and you're missing so much."

Dallas Braden pitched only the second perfect game in the history of a franchise that played its first game in 1901. He did it against the best team in baseball, facing hitters who were using pink bats as part of baseball's effort to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research. When those Rays hitters stepped into the box with those pink bats on Mother's Day, they did so against a pitcher whose mother died of cancer when he was a high school senior. When it was over, Braden had become just the seventh left-handed pitcher ever to throw a perfect game.

It came without advance warning and out of nowhere. Braden, after all, had made 52 previous major league starts and never thrown even a complete game, let alone a perfecto. But that's the point: That's what baseball gives you. It can happen any day or night because baseball is a daily experience. I asked Nomar Garciaparra, who played with Braden in Oakland, what Dallas is like and Nomar immediately went back to the "unwritten rules" aspect.

"He really respects the game," Nomar said. "He acted like a rookie with us veterans and, at the same time, asked us what it takes to lead and to be a leader."

That's the kind of guy you'd want on your team, in your office or with your golf foursome.

I have a friend, a very bright guy, who says that one reason some people are so passionate about football is because it's easy. It's almost like a sports version of fast food. On many levels, football operates to the lowest common denominator. It's once a week (per team, anyway) and it's mammoth men smashing into each other at timed intervals on fields of uniform dimensions perfectly suited for television. Don't get me wrong: I love football and I certainly understand the anticipation buzz that goes along with looking forward to your three hours every week. Baseball, however, is consumed in an entirely different fashion. Its unique skill set, its rhythm, its sights and sounds are provided every day and you never know when that amazing moment will present itself. Now, Dallas Braden has shown us that even Mother's Day is no exception to the rule, written or unwritten.

Steve Berthiaume is a host for "Baseball Tonight."

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