Thursday, September 24, 2009
The United Nations of Baseball.
The International Olympic Committee, in part owing to anti-American attitudes, recently removed Baseball and Softball from the Summer Games. Their main reasoning was that the sports are not 'international' enough and that the sports are dominated by a precious few. Hogwash. Poo-Poo. Pish-Posh. Ridiculoso. Nyet.
Soccer aka Football is often regarded as the most international of sports. It is played by nearly every country on the face of the earf. Yet soccer's champions come from only eastern South America and western Europe. There is no soccer powerhouse in North America (sorry Mexico). There is no soccer powerhouse in Africa. There is no soccer powerhouse in Asia. And, well, the Australian team has a great name, the Socceroos. Teams from North America, Africa and Asia are afterthoughts. Moreover, when you get down to brass tacks, the sport has been largely dominated by teams from just three countries, Brazil, Italy and Germany.
Baseball, like soccer, is played on every continent. At the start of this year's World Baseball Classic, and full credit to Bud Selig for pushing the tourney through, a legitimate case could have been made for Japan, South Korea, the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela winning it all.
While the emergence of the WBC an Olympic baseball tournament becomes unnecessary. Still, Olympic Baseball was taken very seriously by the non-U.S. teams and its loss will be a serious blow to fans and players alike in countries like Cuba, South Korea and Japan. Part of the appeal of the Olympics is watching sports like Field Hockey and Team Handball. Baseball's international development will be hurt by the loss of Olympic exposure. And at a base level, baseball deserves full respect as a true international sport.
Softball loses out on its marquee championship. Softball players, with no real professional league, had only one opportunity every four years to shine. Softball at its highest level is a fierce, entertaining sport and nothing like its slow-pitch after-work cousin. They deserve a chance to get their shine on.