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What in the world?


If the Boston Red Sox win the World Series, they will have solved the Curse of the Bambino. And they will be world champions for the first time since 1918. Think about that: The tiny little city of Boston, the 563rd largest city on Earth, champions of the world! It would be an even greater upset if St. Louis won, because it's not even among the world's 680 most populous cities.

The top 10 cities --- Shanghai, Bombay, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Karachi, Delhi, Manila, São Paulo, Seoul, and Istanbul --- have never even made the World Series during Major League Baseball's 101-year history. In fact, just 11 cities on that 680-city list have won. How pathetic is that? This is the World Series, after all. Evidently, 669 of the world's largest cities just stink at baseball.

The United States has 10 cities on the list that have won a World Series. An astounding 97 out of the 99 World Series winners are from the US, and it'll be 98 out of 100 after this year. Obviously, we totally crank at baseball. The next time Shanghai plays the Yankees, I'm going to rip that team for being so pitiful. Shanghai's television market is nearly double New York's, but the Yankees, representing just the 16th largest city, are superior to Shanghai in every way. They've won 26 World Series to Shanghai's zero.

And look at how badly Boston wants it. During Game 6 against New York in the American League Championship Series, pitcher Curt Schilling played on a torn right tendon surgically attached to his ankle. He bled on the mound in a gutsy performance that rivaled Kerri Strug, who nailed a vault on a badly sprained left ankle to secure the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the US women's gymnastics team in 1996.

Schilling gave up one run in seven innings as Boston won 4-2, en route to the come-from-behind ALCS shocker that elevated the Red Sox to the World Series and sent the Yankees home, a symbol of choking disgust. Incidentally, their choke was much worse than former Bills kicker Scott Norwood's alleged choke in Super Bowl XXV. Norwood had to make a 47-yard kick on grass for the win over the Giants. NFL kickers this year have missed field goals between 40 and 49 yards more than 30 percent of the time. No one in baseball ever blew a 3-0 playoff series lead until the Yankees did.

But back to Schilling. The veteran pitcher and former Red Wing could teach a thing or two to a team such as Shanghai. Schilling won Game 2 of the World Series with his bum ankle on Sunday. I've never seen that kind of determination from Shanghai ever. Heck, I've never seen Shanghai. Where's it been all these years?

It's laughable that American fans, media, and sports leagues bestow the title of "world champions" to their winners when the world is not well-represented in many of those sports. It's indicative of US arrogance and ethnocentrism. In reality, the only sport that offers a true world championship is soccer's World Cup every four years.

Major League Baseball calls its championship the "World Series" because, presumably, the entire world has an interest. The NBA Finals winner is often called the "world champion" even though the US is no longer Earth's most dominant basketball country. The NFL's Super Bowl champions are frequently referred to as world champions even though American-style football is established in just the United States and Canada.

Americans certainly have high opinions of their major pro sports. Amusingly, Canadians created the National Hockey League, and the NHL's top team is almost always referred to as the Stanley Cup champion and never the "world champion." Canadians are seemingly more sensitive to the pompous declarations we often make here in the states.

As for the World Series and the world's interest in it, I went to websites of English newspapers in each of the top-10 cities and found little evidence that those places cared much about the games. There were a lot of stories about cricket, soccer, golf, tennis, auto racing (not NASCAR), basketball, even chess, but little mention of baseball. It definitely wasn't the top story in any of those newspapers.

Well, many Americans must feel those people have to get their heads screwed on straight. Really, what's wrong with them? We're trying to crown someone world champion and there's hardly anyone paying attention outside the Americas. Perhaps singing "God Bless America" during every seventh-inning stretch is offensive and is turning the rest of the world's hearts and minds right off. I don't know.

What's clear is that our world champions are getting ripped off.