Despite baseball and basketball being sports born in the good old USA, both national teams have lost touch with winning gold at the Olympic games. Why do people care so much more about the basketball team losing top standing than the baseball team?
Quick, name the top three players in baseball. If you did this honestly, you probably came up with A-Rod, Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and so on and so forth. Now, do the same thing for basketball. What’s the difference? When you name the basketball players they all have last names like Bryant, Garnett, Anthony and James. Good ol’ Anglo-Saxon names that sound about as American as apple pie.
Americans like their heroes to have names that sound like their own. There’s a reason you see Senator Obama slipping in the polls and it isn’t because John McCain has a better energy plan. When it comes right down to it, Americans, despite being only a couple generations removed from immigrant status themselves, don’t trust immigrants. When a current nominee for the presidency has to deny ties to Islamist terrorists in the same way that Kennedy had to deny that he would take orders from the pope 50 years ago, it’s not hard to see that we haven’t come all that far.
Beyond all that, timing is an integral part of who can actually
represent our country. The baseball season is in full swing and there’s
no way that all those athletes are going to sacrifice their big
salaries or that the teams are going to sacrifice the playoffs for a
couple of weeks of nationalistic fervor. I’m sure that basketball GMs
dread having their best players out there risking injury but at least
the Olympic competition is over before players even need to report for
However, in the Olympics, it also comes down to something much more simple. Basketball has been around in the Olympics for decades and became a sporting symbol for the Cold War conflict between the US and the USSR. When the Soviets beat the Americans in 1988, it stunned the US sporting psyche in the same way that Sputnik called our national pride into question at the end of the 50’s.
Baseball just doesn’t play the same role. It’s only been an Olympic sport for the past 12 years and the US hasn’t even qualified every time. And beyond that, who plays the role of the villian? What reason do we have to win? Real baseball plays out between May and October in a bunch of stadiums scattered across North America.
So, maybe if Cuba ever becomes a legitimate threat or Venezuela is able to back up the big game they talk with some international clout, then baseball will come to play a similar role to that of basketball. But until then, the Dream Team will be Kobe and company and the Olympic baseball team will be a bunch of college schlubs trying their hardest to make their country proud.