“The Disease of More,” a term that according to Bill Simmons was used by Pat Riley to describe why it is much harder to defend a championship then it is to win one. Riley’s point was that when a team wins a championship, the following season the players are infected with the disease of more. They want more money, more minutes, and more shots, throwing away the tight team concept that had originally won them the championship. Teams not only have to beat the all the other teams to defend their championship, they also have to beat the disease of more.
I thought of the disease of more when I was reading ESPN the magazine’s World Cup preview. In the magazine was an excerpt from “ESPN’s World Cup Companion” where two writers, one American and one British, were discussing whether the United States would ever be able to win the World Cup. The article ended with Roger Bennett, the British writer, stating that the US would win the World Cup before it wins the World Baseball Classic.
My first thought was “wow! That’s a bold prediction.” About 10 seconds later I thought, that’s a really far-fetched position. However after thinking this over for a few more minutes I quickly realized something else. Roger Bennett’s prediction is not far-fetched at all; in fact, Roger Bennett is going to be right.
And that is where the disease of more comes in. The disease of more has evolved from not just basketball, but to American society as a whole. We constantly need more things to do; we live in a society where there is just so much else going on.
Look no further to prove this point then American television. All you hear about in sports is how ratings are down, how the World Series needs to be played at 8:30 at night because this way they could draw higher ratings at the expense of not allowing kids to stay up late enough to watch. The NBA finals starts late at night in an effort to draw better ratings as well. All you hear about during the playoffs is it would be a ratings disaster if the small market teams make the finals. Well you know what the real issue is, there is just so much more to watch.
With DIRECTV, satellite companies, cable, digital cable, all fighting for customers, prices are so low that practically everyone has access to at least basic cable nowadays, while many people have satellite or digital cable, which provides hundreds of channels on your TV. The result of this is obvious, there is much more choice with what we want to watch. The reason ratings are low isn’t because people care less, people today care just as little as people 20 years ago, the difference is 20 years ago there was nothing else to watch.
The influx of television channels has more effects on society. Kids can now sit in front of a TV and be entertained all day with the surplus of channels and video games. The consequence is kids are no longer outside playing sports. Their sports consists of the 3 hours a week of organized sports, no pick up ball or sandlot baseball. We are no longer getting kids with street talent, rather only kids with organized sports and structured within a system talent. That is where our national teams will begin to suffer.
This helps to answer the question of how could we expect to win on the world stage in soccer before baseball when baseball is our national past time? The answer is simple, there is just so much else to do. Kids would rather sit and play video games then go out and play baseball. Most kids’ sports are restricted to organized sports only, and right now, more kids in America play soccer then any other sport.
Though baseball may have been invented in America and be America’s past time that doesn’t necessarily translate to global dominance. After all, America’s global dominance is almost becoming non-existent in the entire sports world. We were proved to be human when we lost the gold medal in basketball in 2004, and we only won it in 2008 after putting together a team and saying, in order to play in the Olympics you guys need to play together for a full 3 years, and actually take the Olympics seriously. Same goes with the game of baseball. Baseball in America is now played by kids who can afford equipment, play in little league, and move up the ranks. Kids that cannot afford equipment, well, many of them gravitate to basketball.
Now compare this to Latin American countries where many people are impoverished. Kids make baseball gloves out of whatever material they could find, and spend every moment they can on dirt fields playing the game. It’s no wonder many of Major League Baseballs stars are from Latin American decent, the kids are playing baseball with every second of their free time.
The real reason Roger Bennett’s prediction will stand is because the United States will never actually win the World Baseball Classic, ever. There is too much else for American kids to do these days, and nothing else to do for kids in Latin America. More importantly look at the reason this tournament even exists, because of the disease of more; the tournament was created so MLB could make more money. And that’s really all this tournament is for the Americans. The players speak of the pride of representing their country, but who in this country actually cares. Compare that to the Dominican Republic, or Cuba, or the team that has won both classics, Japan. The tournament means everything to those players, fans, and countries, while in America it just means a way for MLB to make more money. America will never take this tournament seriously and therefore will never actually win the World Baseball Classic. And that is why Mr. Bennett is correct; the United States will win the World Cup before it wins the World Baseball Classic.