For starters, for as much as I love, love, love baseball, I have long been incapable of caring about spring training games. The news from camp, yes, but actually sitting and watching a game is just nothing I have ever taken a shine to. Maybe that would be different if someone invited me out to Arizona or something, but that doesn't happen in my universe. I've thought hard about why I don't care for spring training games, and I've decided that it's simply an internal calendar thing. April is when baseball starts in my mind, and there's not a lot I can do about it. These last few years with March opening days have truly put that predisposition to the test, and I'm not ashamed to admit that even though the games counted, it didn't really feel like baseball season before April rolled around.
I like April better than March, too. And like Craig, I take very little pleasure in watching spring training games on television. But I do like the WBC and it's because the games do count. I was up until 4 this morning watching Japan beat China. No, March 5 doesn't seem like baseball season. Yes, it's a bit disorienting to watch a game being played 5,000 miles away on synthetic carpet under a roof. But it's baseball and the players really want to win and some of them I've never seen before. Sign me up.
The final reason -- and this one I'm somewhat less ashamed of, though I'm not sure if I should be -- is that 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. For the time being, that means all of the best baseball players playing in the Major Leagues. Or all of the best soccer players playing in the EPL or in Germany or Italy or whatever league is supposed to the best. At some point -- like, when we master teleportation -- I'll want to see truly global leagues.
Sometimes it's a little scary, how much alike Craig and I think. Some years ago, there was talk about changing the format of the All-Star Game to U.S.A. versus World or something, to which I was irrationally, almost violently opposed. One of the things I like about Major League Baseball is how it throws all these players from so many different countries together, to fight for a common goal; there certainly isn't a more international team sport played in this country.
Flag-waving does have its place, I suppose. I'm just not comfortable when it turns into a me-versus-you thing. Which partly explains why the Olympics leaves me cold. But to this point, at least, I haven't gotten the same vibe from the WBC. Maybe because when the big games are played in the U.S., most of the fans are Americans who don't really care so much who wins. I can tell you this, though: If we ever reach a point at which the U.S. fans turn the tournament into a point of national pride, I'll be right on board with ShysterBall.
Now, though? It sure beats spring training.