March 21, 2013
The WBC and Dominican Demographics
One of the most stunning parts about following the World Baseball Classic as a social- and other-media-connected human being was seeing how many other Americans paying attention were rooting—strongly or mostly more casually—against the United States. Part of that is probably my own state of watching sports after five years as a writer, so let me explain briefly.
It didn’t take long to stop rooting for sports teams once I started covering professional baseball. Sure, I rooted for good stories, and on plenty of occasions when there were day games looming or beers to be drunk, rooted for short games. And I occasionally found myself rooting for people, though I tried my hardest not to let that interfere with my work and believe I succeeded at that while on the beat.
Yet this left a void; after all, rooting for teams is a lot of fun. Look at this guy. He’s having fun. So I figured the only exceptions in which I could really root were teams with which I had a connection, not just those in from all over in a city where I happen to live. So it was alma mater and country. It’s why even though soccer is far from my favorite sport, the U.S. national team is probably the team I root for the most.
Anyway, much of what I saw of Americans rooting against the United States came with two motives. The first was that our fans weren’t the passionate ones, so let somebody else enjoy this. Like this guy. That all makes sense in an altruistic way, but if that’s the case, we’d all root for the Yankees to win the World Series every year because that would make the most people happy, right?
The second reason I heard pointed to the root of the whole tournament: that the goal of the WBC was to spread the game to countries where it was not being either played, watched, or otherwise appreciated. That’s certainly the intent of the tournament, but it’s unclear how having the United States lose would further that goal.
It would be one thing if the Americans’ going down cleared the way for Romania or Uzbekistan or Uganda or even China—the world’s largest country, which made an early exit from the competition.