Sunday, February 6, 2011

WORLD Champions?

John Marine | 2/06/2011 03:35:00 AM | | |
With whoever wins the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, or the World Series; they are surely the league champions for that season. Some, however, love to use "World Champions" for domestic leagues. To me, it's an exaggerating a bit too much calling champions of a DOMESTIC sport as World Champions. The NFL champions are usually called the World Champions by NFL types. The NBA Finals champions are usually considered World Champions as well. We do have the World Series in Major League Baseball and the College World Series in NCAA Baseball. The Major League Baseball champions are considered World Series champs. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association can really attest to having an international presence. However, these are domestic sports that somehow equate to the championship team being a "world" champion.

--- "World Champion," as Described by Most Fans ---
I'll try to explain things as best as I can without infuriating some of my readers. Mostly American sports fans refer to champions of domestic sports that play domestically as World Champions. Somehow, being the best in a sporting league in the United States somehow qualifies you as being a World Champion. The NFL is purely an American league since all the teams are based here in the United States. Look at leagues like the NBA or Major League Baseball, though. There are franchises in Toronto- in Canada. Multiple teams in Canada can be found in series like Major League Soccer (when the Montreal Impact debuts) and (especially) the National Hockey League.

Here's the thing, though. Just because you're the champion of a domestic league doesn't mean you are any World Champion. It's why I sometimes cringe hearing "World Champion" associated with the champion of domestic league. That even entails when my beloved Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1994 and 1995. You can have international talent playing for one team. However, having international talent alone playing against domestic teams is NOT and should not be considered a World Champion.

American Football Champions as "World Champions."

The Super Bowl champion is often seen as champions of American professional gridiron football. How can you call the NFL champions as World Champions when you don't contest against other international opposition? There are other nations that have gridiron football. Of course, they are no competition against our pros. Yes, we created and specialize in gridiron football, but we aren't anybody's World Champion just because we rule the sport we created.

The only thing close to a World Championship of gridiron football is a sporting league called the IFAF. The IFAF stands for the International Federation of American Football. This is a semi-pro league. I saw on the NFL Network when Japan played against the United States in Kawasaki, Japan back in 2007. The United States and Japan went into Double Overtime as the American team came away victorious. Japan really shown me just how much they grasped American football despite the fact Japan is better known for football (as in what Americans call "soccer").

To learn more about a REAL World Championship of gridiron/American football, visit the IFAF's official home page.

American Basketball Champions as "World Champions."

The NBA boasts some of the finest basketball talent the world has to offer. It doesn't mean, however, the champions of the NBA are World Champions playing against just American talent. Some NBA teams play internationally, but only in (pardon this expression) international friendlies as part of preseason games. There was a time when Regal F.C. Barcelona of the Euroleague beat the Los Angeles Lakers a few years ago in an exhibition. They won 92-88 over the L.A. Lakers. Regal FC Barcelona, though, is a Euroleague team; the Lakers are an NBA team. Two different regional leagues. Unlike gridiron football, basketball is a much more international game.

Just because the NBA has one Canadian team (there used to be two before the Vancouver Grizzlies became the Memphis Grizzlies) with 29 other American teams does NOT mean the champion is a World Champion. America and Canada does NOT equal a World Champion.

You want a real international championship? There are two real ones: FIBA Basketball and basketball in the Olympics.

American Baseball Champions as "World Champions."

While the champions of Major League Baseball are known as the World Series champions, a roster of mostly American-based teams and one Canadian team does NOT equal a World Champion. And don't even get me started with the NCAA's College World Series, which are ALL American schools. Only the Little League World Series can really claim itself as a World Championship deal though the action is contested in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. That is especially considering you have an American bracket and an International Bracket to where you have an American team take on an international team for the LLWS championship.

For those who question Major League Baseball's World Series as a true world championship, word has it that there are talks between Major League Baseball and Japan to have a true sort of World Series. It may be just USA (and Canada) vs. Japan in this series, but at least this can help to a proper World Championship. Read more about it here: Japan-U.S. Baseball: Toward a ‘Real’ World Series?

That concludes this section on American domestic sports and the legitimacy of calling their champions as "World Champions."

--- What Defines a REAL World Champion ---
Let me define this in terms of American sports. United States alone = NOT World Champion. Series that compete in America and Canada = NOT World Champion. Series that compete in America and Mexico = NOT World Champion. Series that compete in America, Canada, and Mexico = NOT World Champion.

If you REALLY want a sport to call itself a World Champion, you have to have a sport that is contested internationally across three international regions of the world. Here are the three international regions I have defined:

* North America and South America
* Europe (and Africa)
* Asia, Australasia (Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand), and Oceania

You can NOT have a proper World Champion in series that is not exclusively domestic. Series like IndyCar is purely domestic despite the international talent that races in the series and despite the fact that there are races held in Canada, Brazil, and Japan. IndyCar is a domestic championship and respected as a domestic championship despite international talent. Even CART was known as the Champ Car World Series, there were some events over in Europe, Asia, and Australia. However, it's still a domestic championship.

So there are two aspects of a true World Champion:
* a domestic-based league where competition involves international opposition (Examples: PGA Tour Golf, LPGA Tour Golf, most tennis tournaments)
* a championship contested in venues around the world against international opposition (Example: F1 World Championship, FIBA basketball, MotoGP)

Being the top-ranked golfer is an example of international opposition even though the PGA Tour is contested mostly in the United States. Call me crazy, but to me, even American professional wrestling qualifies as a World Championship status since the wrestling opposition comes from around the world. Just my views. Feel free to debate.

--- Real World Championship Sports vs. Fantasy World Championship Sports ---
I have spent the better part of this blog post talking about what constitutes as real World Champions of a sport and what some others often call as World Champions. Let me share examples (both fictional and real):

REAL International or World Championship Sports (examples):

* (any Olympics event)
* the FIFA World Cup
* the FIBA World Cup
* the FIVB World Cup
* the International Federation of American Football
* (any class of MotoGP racing)
* Red Bull Air Race
* the X Games
* Little League World Series (actual international players represented)
* World Baseball Classic
* Formula 1 World Championship
* World Superbike Championship
* World Rally Championship

Those are some of many different series that can legitimately call their champions as World Champions. These, however, are not legitimate World Champion sports or having any serious legitimacy of having a "World" presence:

* any sport or series that has a "World" ranking system that is almost all domestic opposition
* NASCAR using the saying of "the world's greatest stock car racers" despite some of the international racing talent
* NCAA's College World Series
* any American sport that has franchises/venues only in America, Canada, and/or Mexico (not a TRUE World Championship)
* any European championship (just Europe is not a WORLD Championship)
* any domestic sport or domestic sport with domestic/regional opposition that calls its champions as World Champions (whether figuratively or actually).

Again- my views.

With Super Bowl XLV coming up, all I'm saying is... congratulations to whoever wins, be it the Steelers or the Packers. Congratulations to whomever wins the NBA Finals. All I'm saying is- these are the champions of their sport. However, while it's a good way to name the champions of a sport, they aren't World Champions when you play in a domestic league against domestic opposition.

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John B. Marine said...

I think it would be interesting to see more international exhibitions, but when you consider travel time and the risk of injury, I don't think many athletes will take these games too seriously.

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