There is something magical and riveting about national sports. If you were to poll five random people at Samford, you would find they have various allegiances to a multitude of sports teams across the country. However, when the United States suits up in any sport, the whole country is rooting for the Red, White and Blue. It seems to mean more when national pride is on the line, regardless of the country we’re facing.
So, what’s going on? Recently, U.S. sports have not performed to the gold standard that fans and athletes expect. U.S. basketball recently dropped out of the FIBA World Cup, once again failing to earn a medal; the last time the U.S. failed to medal in back-to-back FIBA tournaments was during the stretch from1967 to 1970. Baseball fell to Japan in the World Baseball Classic championship despite a superior edge talent-wise. The U.S. men’s soccer team continues to stumble, never reaching the level of other powerhouse countries like Brazil and Germany. To make matters worse, women’s soccer played pitifully at the 2023 World Cup, eliminated in the Round of 16 by Sweden on penalties. USA Hockey remains second-fiddle to Canada, and our golf team heads to the Ryder Cup as underdogs to a strong European team.
Each sport is different, and it will take unique methods to return to the previous standard for American sports. However, broadly, a sense of pride needs to be re-established, and a new rule I am proposing should be enforced. If you are eligible to represent the United States in a given sport, you should be required to participate if selected.
The sense of pride is arguably easier to initiate than the proposed rule change. Too many athletes, it seems, are focused not on the U.S. but on the teams they play for when they are not representing our country. Financially, this attitude seems fair; athletes get paid considerably more by club teams than when they represent the U.S. However, in my opinion, money should never be the motivation; representing your country and the immense pride associated with it should be enough. It’s time for athletes to stop treating national representation like a side hustle and more like their lives depend on it.
The eligibility rule will be much harder to implement. Many players elect not to participate in the Olympics or other competitions to avoid injury, and the NHL does not allow their players to play in the World Games. Despite this truth, I’d argue that athletes should be required if they are eligible. We as Americans deserve to see the best players compete at the national level in their respective sports; when our best available athletes compete, golden results will likely come with it.
I recognize that we, as a country, have been spoiled with international sporting success. One rough patch does not mean that we must reinvent the wheel, but it does mean that changes need to be made to redeem America’s success in sports.