When the NHL switched it’s All-Star game format in the late 90’s from the typical conference vs. conference match-up to a North America vs. The World battle royale, it seemed to herald the dawn of a new, global style of sport. Of course there are the Olympics and the World Cup but if sports like hockey were going to take on an internationalist bent, it was only a matter of time before the whole world came on-board.
Five years later the game reverted back to it’s traditional format and globalism had lost a bit of its luster but the overall move towards a more universal sporting life continued to pick up steam.
Just take a look around the major American sports. The NBA is still dominated by Americans but Europeans, South Americans and even the Chinese have become stars in their own right. The NFL is probably the only league that can still claim to be nearly 100% American but that probably owes much to the fact that the rest of the world is more than happy with their own version of football.
Even the most traditionally American of sports has taken on a greater international context in the past decade with the creation of the World Baseball Classic. And MLB has no plans to stop there. Just this past week it was reported that Bud Selig has been in discussions with his Japanese counterpart for a match-up between the two countries’ respective champions. Maybe it’s only two countries at this point but there’s no doubt that baseball will follow soccer’s lead and institutes some sort of World Club Championships pitting the best club teams from around the world against each other.
It makes sense. There seems to be no end to what consumers are willing to suck up and with all the money to be made from the merchandising, not to mention the actual playing of these games, the different national leagues would be foolish not to join in. Bud Selig will do anything at this point to have his legacy be something other than the steroid era and this would definitely be one way to do that.
Lost in all this is the fact that despite its near collapse a few seasons ago, the NHL may have had it right after all. You can fight globalization and maybe you’ll win some battles. But the war has already been won and it’s here to stay. Baseball appears ready to embrace that.