Over the past year, we have been graced with the opportunity to watch some of the top athletes in the world come together and compete in their respective sports. We started out the year with the Olympics in Russia. While it doesn't draw the hype of the summer Olympics, a number of us got to get our Curling fix for the next 4 years and we got to watch some fantastic hockey and other exciting winter sports. This summer, we saw the arguably the best single sport international competition, the World Cup which, all in all didn't disappoint. But now the FIBA "world cup" is rolling around and all I can say is... well I am a little disappointed. The Olympics is always exciting because while certain countries may bring home more medals than others (lets face it, the USA always does pretty well), a lot of countries will see the podium in some event. This adds to the excitement in some regards because in the end any country can win any event, and there are actually some events where the USA has never won a medal, so we can see someone we have never heard of come in and dominate the world (literally). The world cup, on the other hand, is exciting because we get to come in and watch some of the best athletes in their field come in and compete against one another, but they are usually on opposing sides of the ball. The field of championship competitors, while usually limited to 2 continents, are often deep compared to other international competitions with anywhere from 5-7 teams with respectable odds to bring home the proverbial gold. Similarly, the chances of a "world power" going home early in the tourney are not only high, but also, in recent world cups in particular, the norm.
The problem with events like the FIBA world cup and the Baseball World Cup are many. so I will start with basketball, as it is going on currently. The basketball world cup is almost the antithesis of the soccer world cup. The USA is able to send in a legimate B-team to its latest Olympics roster and win games by scores of 40 or more. Basketball isn't big in most countries and while some European and south american nations have a few NBA players to draw from, they have nowhere near the talent or the fan base of the USA, And while the USA did choke in the olympics 10 years ago and has had a slip up now and then, anyone with half a brain expects them to win this thing going away. There is no fear in anyone's minds that they might bow out in the group stage like Spain in soccer. There is no fear of 1 player being hurt or ineligible for a game that the system will fall apart. Especially with coach K at the helm... its smooth sailing if the US comes ready to play.
Now lets flip things over to the World Cup of baseball that has started since it was eliminated from the olympics. This at least is a far more open field than its basketball counterpart. And the US is not the Big Fish in a small pond like FIBA's rendition, the problem with this tourney is that it takes place during the preseason for baseball and is therefore not the smoothest of competitions to watch. Part of the beauty of the FIFA World Cup is the best players run out there and play the whole time. Often when we watch baseball's version of the world cup, we only see the star pitchers for a couple of innings and many of the hitters aren't in their mid season form. Similarly, some players will decline to save their bodies for the wear and tear of a 162 + game season that is upcoming. It often lacks the excitement that you would come to expect from a international competition of some of the best athletes in the world.
Now I know I rag on both of these competitions, but I do enjoy watching them. The problem is, for these competitions to grow to the level of the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup, there need to be some adjustments made, because the current competition is lacking in one way or another.
Thanks for Reading,
-T.O. Signing out