Another World Baseball Classic is in the books and frankly, I can’t tell you much about it because the event is simply not worth the time of the American sports fan.
Even a baseball aficionado such as myself, bolstered by my beloved Phillies winning the World Series for the first time in my life a mere five months ago, could not be willed into caring one bit about the WBC.
And I don’t believe that I was alone in my apathy for the event, as the WBC seemed to draw tepid interest, at best, from the majority of baseball fans. The reasons are many.
Most baseball fans identify themselves with a favorite team and likely have several teams that they dislike, even despise. So while I hoped for Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino to have strong showings for the American squad, David Wright is still a Met.
The mere fact that he and I were born in the same country and that he is wearing a shirt that says “USA” is not going to sway my opinion of him. I respect the good ballplayer that he is, but he is still a Met. Similarly, I would think that Red Sox fans would take issue with supporting Derek Jeter in any way.
Besides that, what true fan of a team really wants his best players (especially pitchers) wearing themselves down in these exhibitions, when a full 162-game schedule is on the horizon?
The WBC thankfully wrapped up without any major injuries, but I’m sure Padres fans would have preferred that Jake Peavy not even participate in the first place. The same goes for Astros' fans with Roy Oswalt.
Furthermore, the timing of this thing wasn’t the most ideal either. With the country consumed by March madness, people can barely seem to remember that the NBA and NHL seasons are still going on, let alone an exhibition baseball tournament where the United States wasn’t even going to win.
Finally, the WBC is a sad reminder that other parts of the world have passed us by in the great game that we call our national pastime. We essentially are playing the role the Soviets did in the Miracle on Ice, toppled from their pedestal by upstarts with a better combination of skill and determination. Playing this role is no fun.
On the flip side, the 1980 men’s U.S. Olympic hockey team is the greatest source of national sporting pride our country has, because, they weren’t expected to win. Everyone loves an underdog.
So you can imagine how these other countries feel when they beat us at our game on our turf. Yes, maybe they had the better team to begin with, but other nations take a great satisfaction in emerging victorious over the United States.
Though I consider myself a baseball fan, I suppose I should disclaim that by saying that I am a professional baseball fan. And I suspect that many take this same view and invest themselves in Major League Baseball almost exclusively, caring much less about the minor leagues, college baseball, and exhibition events like the WBC.
Major League Baseball is our game played in our league, and that’s how Americans like it. No outsiders allowed.
We will always want to identify ourselves more as Philadelphia fans, New York fans, or Chicago fans rather than United States citizens who want our team to win. To the American consciousness, choosing a team to support is simply more enjoyable than being born into one.
And that’s why the World Baseball Classic, though it may be popular with those who love all things baseball, will never truly catch on here. Just like soccer’s World Cup, the United States will lag behind the rest of the world, both in performance and interest.