Unlike most of the rest of the world London is a bad fit for baseball


London didn’t want baseball at its 2012 Olympic Games. According to reports, it wants it now and MLB is exploring ways to schedule a series or multiple series in the city by 2017.

Written by Kyle Magin

In 2005, London, through then-International Olympic Committee President/mouthpiece of aging Western European/English sports fans Jacques Rogge told baseball and its sister, softball, to fuck off in no uncertain terms before axing if from the Olympic schedule:

“To be on the Olympic program is an issue where you need universality as much as possible…” Rogge said. “You need to have a sport with a following, you need to have the best players and you need to be in strict compliance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). And these are the qualifications that have to be met. When you have all that, you have to win hearts. You can win the mind, but you still must win hearts.”

That’s such an elitist, borderline racist, definitely Euro-centrist comment that it barely rates a response but I’ll provide one anyway for the sake of argument.

“You need universality as much as possible”

This is a shitty old acorn soccer-heads like you to bash baseball over the head with. It’s a provincial game, played elsewhere (read: not in Europe) and therefore doesn’t have international appeal. This is some real flagrant bullshit for the Olympics to push when they embrace hockey, handball, sailing, golf, beach volleyball and rugby sevens. Each of those sports is meritorious of Olympic inclusion and each of them has a severely limited ‘universality’ due to the geography, cost and historic ties necessary to allow it to flourish anywhere.

“You need a sport with a following”

BULLSHIT ALERT. BULLSHIT ALERT. Listen, baseball may not have the following it used to stateside, but holy shit, 31 million people attended games this season in the top 10 cities in the U.S. and Canada alone. Tampa Bay’s in-house crowd of 1.2 million people this season tops the attendance and televised crowd for every open water swimming final ever, combined. Japan has two teams that drew 3 million plus people this season. The Caribbean winter leagues have major TV deals with MLB Network and ESPN. Baseball has an intense global following in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia (where baseball is booming), Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Curacao, Cuba, Dominican Republic and a host of small islands in the Caribbean. It’s gaining a foothold in China and even some Southern European nations. There’s not one other sport in the world (‘cept, you know, THAT one) that you could add to the Olympic schedule that would bring more followers. Not one.

“You need to have the best players and you need to be in strict compliance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)”

I’m not going to dignify the back half of that statement cough *track* cough. Baseball was sending its best players to the Olympics when it was in the Games. The ‘96 U.S. roster included lifers like A.J. Hinch, R.A. Dickey, Braden Looper, Jacque Jones, Troy Glaus, Jeff Weaver and Billy Koch. In 2008 the squad included Jayson Nix, Dexter Fowler, Stephen Strasburg, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. That’s just the Americans. Look, yes, they were minor leaguers at that point, and no, you’re never going to get active major leaguers onto an Olympic diamond. But that’s OK. Men’s soccer only sends players who are under 23, and that’s ostensibly the sport you’re comparing baseball to in this argument, right Jacques? Hockey was arguably more popular when it was sending college kids who didn’t really merit NHL careers. This is another stinky bullshit argument.

“When you have all that, you have to win hearts. You can win the mind, but you still must win hearts.”

//Extended fart noise and wanking motion//

I promise you this is all related to MLB kicking the tires on games in London. The league wants badly to get into Europe, where a fat potential TV audience awaits. But, Europe is an absurd place to focus. Those fogies and footballers thumbed their noses at us once.

Why not continue to grow the game where it’s already sparking interest, or adjacent to those places? We’re living in the Pacific century. Even scooping a few percentiles of the Chinese or Indian audiences would be more valuable than every TV set in the U.K. by a factor of 10. Why not continue a long, honored tradition of growing baseball in the dirt of countries who are poor now? Japanese children were literally eating the paper of the walls of their homes and the leather of their shoes when baseball began catching hold in the economic wasteland of the post-war years, ditto South Korea and Taiwan. Legions of Dominicans and Cubans learned the game with rolled-up paper bags for gloves and modified corks for balls. They’re all now part of a constituency that makes baseball’s international telecasts the second-most valuable domestic advertising vehicle after basketball.

Trying to get back with London is an ego play. It doesn’t build anything–it doesn’t put mitts on young hands and actually grow the game. At most it ends up like the NFL’s play–it lets Brits experience what it’s like to get wasted in the American manner and ask the nearest Yank ‘what’s happening now’ the whole game. It’s getting together with an old flame who turned you down and you’ve since surpassed.