In the wake of the Black Sox men winning the Softball World Cup, it is inevitable that they will now be eligible for further government funding. There are some who think this isn’t a good thing, notably the issue has been blowing up on Radio Sport over the past few days. Their arguments can be summed up like this, Men’s softball is a niche, amateur sport compared to baseball, and men should be playing baseball and leaving softball for women. They also argue that as the potential rewards on offer from playing baseball, i.e a spot in the Major League, are far greater than those reaped by amateur softball players, children should be encouraged to take up baseball instead.
I have a number of criticisms of these arguments. Firstly, it is reductionist and flat out wrong to say that softball is a women’s sport, demonstrably 15 nations are good enough to have men’s teams that are competitive at World Cups. The is also an idea implicit in that argument that softball is something of a lesser sport, a summer past time as it was frequently derided as, and as such it should be kept for women. I have argued in other posts that funding for women’s sport shouldn’t be any less than that for men, and this holds true here, but that doesn’t mean funding for men to play a sport should be cut either.
Also, the idea that we should compete in baseball just because it is a global sport is laughable. The only truly global sport is football, every other sports globalness or otherwise depends on how you define global. Handball is huge is Europe, but we never hear about it here. How about rugby? Its somewhat global if you look at the former British sphere of influence, but what if you are Chinese? How about Ice Hockey? Is that a global sport if you are from Tanzania? What exactly makes baseball more of a global sport than softball? Is it just because Americans call their national finals playoffs the World Series?
What about the idea that because you can get rich playing baseball, it should be funded by the government? That idea I find particularly offensive, as it assumes that dedication and commitment to a sport can only come with a paycheck. The Black Sox will go back to their normal lives this week, but they will still be World Champions. Does money really act as the only qualifier on what should be regarded as the pinnacle of sporting achievement?
The Black Sox beat every other team in the world at softball, and under the current funding model, they are entitled to continued support. That is exactly as it should be. To cut it off now would be insulting to those who gave up their own time and regular jobs to train and prepare for this tournament. We should be celebrating the Black Sox as much, if not more than other champions, because they did it for the love of their sport, not for money.