Attention NFL, NBA, & MLB: There’s A Big World Out There

November 7, 2015


By Douglas Cottier – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

In the next fortnight, the World Series will culminate and Major League Baseball will have a new titleholder. When this happens, it will be yet another occurrence of an American-based league making an outrageously abhorrent claim which should be legally prohibited: the winner of MLB baseball will be anointed “World Champions”.

Along with the MLB, the NBA and the NFL are also guilty of this appalling claim. Throughout the history of these three leagues, the championship teams have hung banners in their stadiums and bejewelled their players with rings that read “World Champions” having only bettered competition from the United States of America (and one team from Canada in the case of the NBA and MLB).

The common justification for this fallacy is that the best athletes in the respective sports play in these leagues, therefore their champions are surely capable of defeating any external opposition. Whether or not this is true is absolutely irrelevant. You are either a champion of the world or you are not, there is no place for opinion or speculation. It is entirely a matter of fact and the undeniable certainty is that a team that only competes in approximately one two-hundredth of the geopolitical globe is not a world champion, and there is no explanation that makes it even remotely justifiable.

The best basketball players in the world play in the NBA, which for the sake of argument provides the highest level of basketball competition on the planet. Any basketball savant would agree and would likely also agree that the next best quality of basketball is played in Europe, in the Euroleague. In the past season across the Atlantic, twenty-four clubs from twelve different European countries (who have surpassed clubs from even more countries in qualifying rounds) competed for the Euroleague title. The victors were Real Madrid of Spain who are the current European Champions of club basketball. This title cannot be disputed as any worthy opponent from any European country had the opportunity to compete. Despite reigning supreme over an entire continent, the Euroleague has the humility to never even have the faintest notion of using the term “World Champions”. This is fundamentally due to its outright incorrectness, but more practically because roughly three-quarters of the world would be unrepresented.

The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals this past June, making them the best of twenty-nine American clubs (and one Canadian club), and will raise a “World Champions” banner at the commencement of the new NBA season. Less than two percent of the countries of the world are represented by the NBA. The incontestable reality is that the Warriors are NBA Champions, no more and no less. Not only is the use of the term “World Champions” factually wrong, it is shockingly arrogant and egotistic, and only these American leagues have the audacity to make such a disgraceful assertion. This is illustrated by the fact that this trend does not extend to the National Hockey League, a league which is 23% Canadian, whose titleholders are accurately designated “Stanley Cup Champions”.

The problem is that these leagues erroneously feel entitled to make a statement that is one-hundred percent incorrect, which generates a completely unsubstantiated superiority complex amongst impressionable followers. The detestably vain use of the term “World Champions” will perpetuate in American-based professional sports leagues until it is legally forbidden; perhaps foreign leagues could file an action in fraud or misrepresentation. A more probable resolution would be rational thinkers in the public eye like longtime San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (whose team is the only one to aptly hang “NBA Champions” banners) communicating its categorical incorrectness. Coach Popovich made the following statement in 2010:

“There are no World Champions in the NBA, so anybody that has the flag up that says world champions is not correct, it’s not appropriate. The world champions, I believe, are the Spanish team right now. USA is the Olympic champion. The Lakers are the NBA champion. It doesn’t make sense for an NBA team to call themselves world champions. I don’t remember anybody playing anybody outside our borders to get that tag. Isn’t that true? I keep waiting for somebody to tell me I’ve missed something. The world’s bigger than North America. I know sometimes we as arrogant Americans don’t respond to the rest of the world, but it’s true. There’s a big world out there.”

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