Friday, March 6, 2009

On Winning and Belonging

Two days ago, Shysterball, explaining his indifference toward the WBC, wrote,
"I find that pitting nation-state against nation-state in any competition is a passe exercise. I’m not in favor of one world government or anything, but I do have a mild Utopian streak in me, and I thus find the competition of countries to be a rather quaint and ultimately meaningless construct that I hope is one day supplanted by a little more oneness, ya know? Oh, I'll grant the World Cup and the modern Olympics their current constructs because nations were more important when they started and I’ll grant them their setup for the sake of history, but we really aren’t in that world anymore. Or at least we should strive not to be. All of us have more things in common with some people in other countries than we do with some people in our own. With specific reference to sports, we all know that no country has a monopoly on top talent. Why then pit countries against one another? What, exactly, does it prove? The height of internationalism, in my mind at least, is when people from all over the world play together rather than divide up into categories determined by accident of birth."

It's a noble sentiment and The Common Man likes the notion that we are all brothers in humanity and want to buy the world a Coke and whatnot. That said, there's not really another good way to split up players to properly celebrate cultural differences, fandom, and playing styles, which is one of the main reasons The Common Man likes the idea of the WBC. Unfortunately, that means we have to endure the jingoism of Tommy Lasorda, who literally shouted from the rooftop (of The Empire State Building, no less), "It's our game. Baseball is America's game. It doesn't belong to the Italians or the Cubans or the Koreans or the Japanese. It's our game, and we're not going to let them beat us." He went to to say,
"Baseball is America's game. It doesn't belong to these other countries. We've got to best 'em, because they want to beat us bad. They want to beat the United States because they figure, they can beat the United States, that's a big feather in their cap.

"Well, we can't let them put any feathers in their cap. We've got to win this thing. And we've got to bear down and believe and be proud that you're wearing the uniform of their greatest country in the world."

Ugh. Sorry, Craig. Do you think Lasorda knows he's as Italian as a spicy meat-ah-ball-ah?

Anyway, Lasorda's attitude is as unfortunate as it is wrong (though he's 81 and a beloved Stengel-esque figure, so maybe The Common Man will give him a pass). Baseball, of course, developed over multiple cultures, going from Rounders and Cricket to baseball after centuries on this side of the Atlantic. But its origins are British. But since possession is allegedly nine-tenths of the law, maybe the Brits have given up their claim (but don't tell Ron that). But if possession is the criteria, the US doesn't have exclusive rights to the game anymore either, seeing how it gave away the sport to every Japan, Australia, and Cuba that seemed even mildly interested in it.

No, baseball now belongs to a host of nations and peoples, as it rightly should. It's a hell of a game. And in the interests of baseball, The Common Man wonders if it's better for the US to lose another WBC. A second disappointing defeat will only a) drive up interest in the game in other parts of the world (where baseball competes with the abomination known as soccer), b) drive up US interest in the next WBC, where the Tommy Lasordas feel again compelled to root, root, root for their home's team's superiority. A US win only a) reinforces American feelings of superiority; the la-di-da, we had it in the bag all the time feeling that the American victory was inevitable and, therefore, not dramatic or interesting and b) pisses off countries that actually care what happens in the WBC. The game is strong in the United States, after all, as attendence and revenues are ridiculously high (though presumably they will fall off somewhat in the current economic climate).

If the goal of the tournament is to promote the game around the world, it's clear that the best possible outcome is for the US to have a good showing, but to lose somewhere along the way, while Australia or China cruises to a surprise victory.

1 comment:

tHeMARksMiTh said...

I think you have to see Lasorda as a product of his time on his quote. Also, he's being patriotic and cheering his country on. Still, it looks bad.

Anyway, if Australia wins, I give up.