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Thursday, March 12, 2009

On the WBC & patriotism

Tango linked to this great article citing comments by Endy Chavez and Yadier Molina on the WBC:

Chavez was beaming after going 3 for 4 to help Venezuela eliminate Italy with a 10-1 victory in the World Baseball Classic. The victory assured Venezuela of a trip to the second round; its game Wednesday against the United States will be for seeding.

The final hero of Game 7, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, is also playing in the W.B.C., for Puerto Rico. Molina hit a go-ahead two-run double on Monday to beat the Netherlands, and he surprised reporters when he said it meant more to him than the homer that sent the Cardinals to the World Series.

But the revelation did not surprise Chavez.

“It’s not even close,” Chavez said. “When we’re in the majors, it’s our job. We are professionals. You play for your team, but you just try to do your job. Here, it’s something special. You feel like a little kid. It’s not money. No matter who you are, you have to play hard for your country. I think it’s the biggest thing that has happened in my life.”

The biggest thing in his life? Bigger than The Catch?

“That was outstanding in that situation, to make that catch and save the team,” Chavez said. “It’s unbelievable, and it’s a pretty good play. But like I say, representing my country is something special. Nothing compares to that.”
Supports what I was saying the other day about player attitudes and loyalties in MLB and the WBC:
We see the people on our team as "our" heroes, but the truth is that they're employees of a large conglomerate who ultimately are playing for our team because a) that's who drafted them, or b) that's who offered them the best contract. They will have loyalty to their teammates, and over time some may adopt a city as their second home. But I think for most players, their team and "home" city is just the place where they go to work. That's probably especially true for players born outside of the USA.

My perception is that the World Baseball Classic is different. Players are playing for their true home countries (or, at least, the country of their ancestors). My sense is that many of them take real pride in these games and play them with an intensity that is at least on the level of the regular season, if not the postseason.
Anyway, at Tango's blog, a commenter wrote this:
i am phlegmatically pro WBC, because if done correctly it should be a great way to promote the sport around the globe and also provides entertaining baseball at a compitition level above that of a typical exhibition tournament. but i find the whole nationalistic prism it is framed in pretty discouraging. aren’t we above this kind of thing? i know sports nationalism is considered ‘harmless’ and everybody loves the world cup and the olympics and whatever but nationalsim is, to me, pretty much anathema to global progress.
nationalism is evil. homerism is just geeky, and when it leads to irrational behavior, yes, sometimes very annoying.
Here's my response:

I love the WBC for many reasons. I love the huge talent differences across clubs, because you get to see teams like the Netherlands pulling massive upsets despite AAA-level (at best) talent. I love that it’s a way to learn more about the personal backgrounds of all the players we follow in MLB. And I love the nationalism of the event.

I completely reject the idea that nationalism (actually, I think patriotism is probably a better word for what we’re seeing) on the level shown in the WBC is evil. The WBC is all about pride in your country. There’s nothing wrong, and a lot right, about that. I wrote when Obama was elected that I felt a genuine since of pride in my country for the first time in a long time. It’s made a tangible difference in my attitude toward team USA this go-around. Maybe that’s shallow, but that’s where I’m at.

I also love to see the patriotism exhibited by the players and fans of other countries. It helps me remember that there is far more to this world than this tiny part of our country where I closet myself. Fans and players of other teams are proud of their own countries, and they should be.

The kind of nationalism we’re seeing in this event is not, or at least does not have to be, the same thing as isolationism or exclusionism. It does not mean that you don’t respect and admire other countries. It just means you’re proud of your own country and the players representing it.

Never really thought I was the patriotic type...but dangit, I am. Maybe I'm not the boot-up-your-ass patriot type, and I'm definitely about as socially liberal as they come...but yeah, I'm a patriot, and I love my WBC.