Thom Loverro: WBC fails to captivate in United States

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Sports,MLB,Thom Loverro

The national pastime took an international blow last weekend when the U.S. entry was bounced from the World Baseball Classic after consecutive losses to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

This is the kind of nationalistic development that might result in calls for a government investigation, Sunday morning talk shows about lost American values and patriotic leaders asking, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Except if Joe DiMaggio was alive and in his Yankee Clipper prime today, he likely would have been playing for the Italian team.

Take that, America.

If our national pride was wounded over the weekend, it appears to have been a paper cut based on the reaction -- or lack thereof -- outside of hard-core baseball fans and the media that cover baseball.

The World Baseball Classic still flies under the radar here, competing with college basketball tournaments and whatever business takes place under the NFL shield on any given day -- this time of year free agency.

Too bad. It's a great sporting event. It's a passionate sport event. It's a fun sporting event.

All that is pretty much a secret here -- which appears to be fine with Major League Baseball.

Of course, the powers that be would have loved if all eyes were glued to the MLB Network on Thursday night for a great show -- the Dominican Republic's dramatic 3-1 victory over the U.S. squad in front of what appeared to be a wild crowd of more than 30,000 fans at Marlins Stadium in Miami.

But no one is watching the ACC or Big East tournament in the Netherlands or Italy or Japan or any of the other countries that take part in the WBC, which seems to be the entire reason for the existence of the tournament -- to market and promote the game internationally.

It may not register here, but the WBC is serving its purpose with international marketing and the growth of baseball. And it is a kiss-off to the International Olympic Committee, which has eliminated baseball from the games. Baseball has a chance to get back in for the 2020 Olympics as long as it bows before the IOC with all the other sports -- wrestling, for instance -- competing for inclusion.

The WBC is baseball's answer to the IOC -- and it's a product totally under the control of MLB and the players association, partners in the classic.

If MLB really wanted to make it a meaningful event in this country, they would hold it in place of the All-Star Game every four years. It would require significant schedule issues, but imagine WBC games at Fenway Park or Nationals Park in July -- with no competition for attention.

That is, if the point of the WBC was to do much more than sell the game overseas.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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