Paradox of American ‘World Champions’

By Michael Battista

Staff Writer

As the ball dribbles through the infield into Robinson Cano’s glove, the volume from the stadium’s crowd builds. He flips to Mark Teixeira before then-Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino can reach the bag. The game is over, and the 2009 New York Yankees are “World Champions for the 27th time,” according to Joe Buck.

But are they?

The Denver Broncos are the current Super Bowl Champions. (AP Image)
The Denver Broncos are the current Super Bowl Champions. (AP Photo)

It’s strange to think about, but whenever we watch a finals series in the NBA, MLB or NFL it’s always for a so-called “world championship.” But how could that be when those organizations play mainly against other American teams?

America, here’s a shock for you: you can’t be the world champion if you don’t play against the rest of the world. Some could argue that the leagues here are the best in the world, and that is probably true, but you can’t just assume greatness. You need to earn it.

Let’s get back to baseball. The Yankees are “world champs”, but did they beat the Dominican Professional Baseball League’s champions from that year, Tigres del Licey? What about the Yomiuri Giants, former team of then-World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and winners of the 2009 Japan Series, or Nippon Professional Baseball’s World Series?

Some could make the argument that an American team at full strength would destroy these teams. To that, I say at least those countries have actually won the World Baseball Classic — something the United States has yet to do.

For all the shady deals and corruption charges, FIFA knows how to make and prove a world champion. When Leicester City won the Premier League, England’s largest soccer federation, they were the champions of just that — England.

From there, they must make it to the Union of European Football Associations Champions League and play against the other league champions from around Europe. It’s only after they win that are they the champions of Europe, and that’s still not even the world.

Finally, they need to compete in the FIFA Club World Cup, where they play each governing bodies best team — including the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, Oceania Football Confederation, Asian Football Confederation and the rest. It’s only if the Leicester City Filbert Foxes beat all these teams and wins the tournament are they “World Champions.”

A lot of work, right? Well, it should be.

If you want to claim you are the best in the world at something, all challengers from all corners of the globe should be able to prove themselves and try to dethrone you. Sure, there will be blowouts, but there could also be surprises.

During the 2007 International Federation of American Football championship, the finals came down between the United States and Japan. These aren’t players you’d see in the Pro Bowl or Super Bowl. They were young and upstart players looking to show off their best. They were ambitious college players showcasing their best talents and abilities.

In a game that’s named after our country, it took two overtimes to decide a winner, and one field goal gave the U.S. the 23-20 win. These were world champions.

Just playing one 16-game regular season, along with a max of four playoff games against your own country, doesn’t make you the best in the world. The Broncos, even with their recent issues at quarterback, would probably destroy other club teams, but it’s better to prove than to assume.

Either that, or stop using the title “world champions.”

The way I see it, sport fans should try to put their money where their mouths are and have the teams they love earn that title of best in the world.

Maybe this wouldn’t work in a sport like football quite yet, but basketball and baseball could try it. Sports we see on the Olympic stage (including baseball, since it’s slated to return in 2020), where different nations battle it out for medals, deserve to have a world tournament with each country’s best club. If the U.S. wins, then yes, Americans were right and they are the world’s best. But if they lose… I’d say the victor would earn the respect of a lot of fans that day.