The WBC And American Apathy
We (America. Or, south of the 36th, “Amurrica”) invented the World Baseball Classic. We host it. But God help us if we don’t really want to be there. It’s the house party we convinced ourselves would be a good idea, not realizing that we couldn’t really goad our friends into pretending they were having fun (kind of like the movie House Party).
Part of it has to do with the fact that we aren’t exceptional at it. Baseball is such a fickle, volatile mistress that even a team such as the Netherlands can win a game or two, even against nations with a much richer baseball history, background, and talent pool.¬† And despite America fielding the most talented team on a consistent basis (as well as fielding the talented portions of many other rosters), we haven’t won. And when America doesn’t win, we kind of pretend it either doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.
Our overly-naive opinion regarding global football (read: soccer) culture speaks volumes, as does our response to sports such as cricket and rugby. We view them as niche, an oddity of a foreign taste and sentiment. And although football has gained a good deal of traction in the States, when it comes to America’s global position within the game, we are more on-par with nations like Greece and Sweden, towered over by England, Brazil, Italy, Germany, and many, many others. And have you watched the Olympics (or, more astutely, Olympic news coverage), well, ever? You’d think that Hitler¬†invented the sport if America doesn’t medal in it.
Yes, America’s ego takes quite a bruising when we don’t get what we believe we are entitled to. In a given season, ask a KU fan whether the regular season or the Big XII tournament is more important; Last year it was the regular season. This year, since they didn’t win the season outright, as the tourney goes, so goes the Jayhawk Nation.
*Note: Not to pick on KU fans specifically. I’m sure LSU, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, and a slew of other programs have the same sort of entitlement.
When it comes to the World Baseball Classic, it’s even more difficult to motivate Americans, both players and baseball fans, to gain a sincere interest. Couple the fact that it coincides with Spring Training, and that many American citizens populate the rosters of foreign teams, the whole notion of it being a true world tournament just doesn’t hold water. Throw in further considerations, chiefly that the USA manager (and others) have certain edicts regarding player usage, and that many players simply refuse to participate, it’s hard to take it seriously.
While it is certainly an interesting proposition, the WBC just doesn’t cut it, certainly from a competitive standpoint and even more so from a perspective of global importance. We haven’t won, so we don’t care. The best in the world don’t even bother to show up.¬†Most of the world doesn’t even play baseball, and some nations have such a ridiculously low quality of play that it seems laughable at times to include them**.
**Note: They can still win, though, which speaks more to baseball’s volatility than it does to anything else.
Consider this: Just a few days ago, America was six outs away from losing to Canada. If they had lost, they would have had to qualify for the next WBC before entering pool play. Instead of taking it on the chin, the prevailing sentiment was that we would simply change the rules to allow America a free pass. ¬†As we always teach our kids: “If you don’t win, change the conditions of victory. If you can’t do that, just quit.”
Maybe the WBC will be a great thing some day. I’m sure more people will care once America gets to a final sometime. If we can get over ourselves, maybe we can see it for what it is, instead of worrying about what it can do for us.
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