Thursday, March 16, 2006

Declaration of Independence

In 1776, thirteen colonies signed into existence the birth of a new nation. Independence from the British Empire forged a new era in the world and the struggling infant that was the United States quickly grew to be one of history’s foremost powers. The lessons of the European masters were bestowed upon the founding fathers of this new nation and changed to suit their unique character and the needs of their citizens.

Such is the case with the World Baseball Classic’s shocking turn of events. With a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Mexican National Team the US is out of the tournament and Japan has advanced thanks to special tie-breaker rules.

The United States has suffered a humiliating and humbling series of defeats to nations once in awe of the strength and talent it possessed. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron….all Americans revered around the world as baseball Gods. The US, being the home of their pantheon, has always been the dream for players everywhere. The Major Leagues the highest pinnacle of success in the sport. What we face now is the notion that the collection of talent in other parts of the world has surpassed our own, and the students have now become the masters.

Baseball was introduced to Korea and Japan by missionaries from the United States, and barnstorming major leaguers helped to build popularity for the sport. Nations of the Caribbean and Latin America live directly in the great shadow of the US and are influenced by our culture, politics, religious traditions and sports. Our neighbors to the north rarely share the world stage with us when it comes to athletic events, but a budding tradition has showed itself in recent years with several All Star players hailing from Canada.

One would never have expected both Korea and Japan to have advanced to the semi-finals of the WBC, but the real passion and national pride that each nation has for its position in the hierarchy of the international rankings has propelled them to excel and show the wealth of ability that they have to offer the game. The US could vanquish neither of its neighbors and neither of its Asian disciples in the left bracket and finds itself out of the competition without ever having to face the true powers of the sport; Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

What does this mean for the US and what does it mean for the sport? First, I think it’s great for baseball. It shows the possibilities that exist beyond the United States. It shows that the sport is truly international, and that it is played at the highest level all over the world.

What it means for the US is far graver. Combined with our miserable failures in international basketball, the US sports mystique no longer exists. The rest of the world no longer considers us the pinnacle of excellence and has full confidence that they can defeat us any day of the week. The thing is, they’re right. The best illustration of the lack of respect we have on the international stage is a Korean graphic I found which compared each position player on the respective national teams and their salaries. See for yourself by clicking the photo below:

The rest of the world sees the opulence and glitter of the American athlete and, like David, sees an overrated Goliath it can take down. Each victory is a symbolic strike against the Empire of America and its image of global domination. If the US can be beaten at its own games, despite all its overwhelming advantages, perhaps the same can be said in Economic, Political, Military, and other circles as well. It’s a kind of baseball “insurgency” that has struck a blow to the heart of the American identity.

How will we recover, and can we emerge stronger for the experience?


Matchosan said...

Lets see if All-Nippon can break the curse of I-chi-ro.

Ganbare Nippon Cha-Cha-Cha

Anonymous said...

Jesus, aren't you being a little over-dramatic here? I doubt the average American is feeling a huge hit to his "national identity" because the U.S. lost the WBC. Hell, I've yet to see anyone mention this outside of hardcore baseball fans. In any case, most Americans care more about whether their local teams did well than if the national team lost. And anyways, if we lost, we lost. Better luck next time. Sheesh.

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