Tuesday, April 7, 2009

World Baseball Classic: Go World!

Since the conclusion of the World Baseball Classic, I have read articles lamenting the poor performance of the U.S. team (eliminated in the semis) and suggesting ways America can take its proper place in upcoming WBC editions.

Oh the shame!

These authors are writing as if baseball were still America's game. It's not. It was. It's not anymore. Football, for better or for worse, is now America's pastime. Baseball, in America, is now a sport that primarily generates enthusiasm among nostalgia seekers and the not-from-here crowd. I like baseball, largely, because I like history; and baseball, more than perhaps any other American sport is dominated by history (the debates over "sacred" records is proof of this). I suspect that people who have grown up on X-boxes and Red Bull find the game tedious, atavistic, and far too rural for modern consumers. In fact, baseball was popularized as a means for urban laborers to remember an idealized rural life. It was a vector for nostalgic longing from the beginning. But over a century later, the nostalgia card is losing appeal.

In Asia and Latin America, however, baseball is seen as a modern game that allows the colonized (colonized either by the military, or by American corporations) to compete with the hegemonic power (the U.S.) on equal footing. It is, for these countries, a forward looking sport that speaks to their potential.

So I for one am not at all concerned that the U.S. has not won the WBC. It makes the WBC more suspenseful and gives it the cachet of being a true world series.

1 comment:

Robert J. Hudson said...

Shame?!?! I, personally, think the United States OVER-achieved in this WBC. Americans should actually be proud that we made it to the semi-final round. On paper, at least two teams--Dominicana and Venezuela--had superior line-ups and pitching when compared to ours. (And, I don't mention Japan and Korea simply because I don't know their personnel--still, I'd take Ichiro, Kuroda and Daisuke over any OF, SP, SP combo in baseball.) Our best players were probably David Wright, Roy Oswalt and Derek Jeter (neither of whom are the best on a global scale at their respective positions: I'd take Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Zambrano and Hanley Ramirez any day). Based on international talent alone, I think the US actually ranks fourth behind 1. Japan, 2. Dominicana and 3. Venezuela, with 5. Korea and 6. Puerto Rico not too far behind. So, they finished right where they belong.

Great post, Corry! I really appreciate the colonization bit. I'd never considered it in those terms. You're absolutely right: baseball is much more serious in Latin America and East Asia. Simply inventing a sport doesn't make you the automatic favorite. (Spain has a VERY talented basketball team.) Otherwise, the English might have a world cup since 1966.