The real world championships
by Steve Rushin
Posted: Wednesday October 27, 2010 10:03AM
Updated: Wednesday October 27, 2010 10:03AM
Sports Illustrated

It’s that time of year again — October — when we crown another deserving World Champion. I’m speaking, of course, about the just-concluded World DJ Championship, which was contested among turntable wizards from 25 nations and won — I hardly need to tell you — by the French spinner LigOne at club KOKO in London.

By contrast, the other World Champion crowned next week will have vanquished teams from two countries en route to winning the World Series. The World DJ Championship, we are left to conclude, is a far more cosmopolitan event than the World Series will ever be. The only thing the two events have in common is a lot of scratching.

So why in the world do we persist in calling the winners of America’s domestic sports leagues “World Champions”? It has often been noted that the NFL is about as international as the International House of Pancakes. But that simply isn’t true: IHOP has franchises in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Virgin Islands. The NFL does not have a franchise in Los Angeles.

The governing body of the World Chess Championship, FIDE, comprises 158 national associations. Given that the United Nations only has 34 more countries than that, we might consider FIDE a truly global operation. If any victor, then, has the right to slip into a “World Champion” T-shirt and duck-walk around a field of play as Tina Turner sings “You’re simply the best” over the sound system, it is 40-year-old Viswanathan Anand of India, the reigning world chess champion. It would certainly make the tournament more lively.

Instead, Anand, who took a 40-hour bus ride to Bulgaria to earn his title in May, pronounced himself “relieved” to have won, then treated himself to a flight home. This backs up what Francis Bacon once said: “The less you speak of your greatness, the more I shall think of it.”
Of course, that was the 16th century, and Bacon today would no doubt be tweeting us all a link to his Bacon Bits blog, where he’d have posted several more aphorisms like that one. But the point remains: “World Champions” protest too much.

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