The United States has, again, come up way short in the World Baseball Classic. Long may it be so.
The World Baseball Classic is a vanity project from the same people who have managed to reduce baseball from America's Game to one where the championship is barely a blip on the American radar nowadays.
I was in America last October. Few watched and baseball barely figured in conversations. People just don't care that much about baseball. Football - pro, college, high school, Pop Warner probably - were far more important.
Anyone born before 1970 can remember when it wasn't like that. Baseball used to dominate the American sports agenda. That was when the World Series was the event on the American sports calendar.
Maybe those days are gone forever, but that doesn't mean that those in charge of Major League Baseball should just throw up their hands and say, "Oh well."
And don't talk to me about profits, etc. I know, I know. Baseball is making money hand over fist. They're making so much they can only see one thing to do, which is make more.
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That's what the WBC was designed to do: expand the reach of Major League Baseball into new markets, to get more people to pay for the rights to their broadcasts, buy officially sanctioned and trademarked baseball caps and shirts.
Yet baseball, Major League Baseball, has a lot more pressing issues than selling Yankee caps in China. Maybe if I was an owner I'd think differently, but as a fan I want the game to thrive, not just earn profits. And thriving means caring (sorry Barney).
It's more exciting when people care. When I was a teenager people just talked about baseball, especially during September and October. Finding Twitter buddies to tweet with on the day is not the same as random conversations with people in the supermarket or whatever.
As a fan I want that. Yet when I was in America in October I may as well have been in Dublin because it was only on Twitter that I could find people who were keen to discuss the games.
Elsewhere on this site Cormac Eklof argues that it's time America cared about the WBC. All I can think is, "Why?" The serious fans, the core of people that Major League Baseball takes for granted, don't care. They can see that the WBC is merely a MLB money-grab, an exhibition, one in which their star player runs the risk of injuring himself.
What Major League Baseball is learning is that you can't contrive to invent a new competition that's clearly inferior and expect the fans you ignore/neglect/disdain to pony up simply because you believe "If we build it they will come." Well you know what? We won't. And long may it be so.
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