International Showdown by Proxy
"Sport is war minus the shooting."
Our story is about a valiant hero, a professional sports/video games/pogosticking champion who is preparing or going to a major tournament for his preferred skill. Normally, these tournaments are contained entirely within the main character's country, as in there are no foreigners competing.
But for this special episode/movie, there is a great threat on the horizon ... there is a foreigner rival who might just be even better than the hero, if not possibly the best in the whole world!
For some reason, this coincidental clash of titans from across the globe always seems to turn into a showdown between the two representative countries. For example: Who is better, America's best player or Japan's best player? It's implied that whoever wins proves that their country is better as a whole, not just at this particular sport.
Used in different mediums for different reasons. Often used patriotically, because the main character lives in your country, and they win! Sometimes used to introduce a new archnemesis and spice up the show's competitors. This is probably a trope because it tends to happen in Real Life
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- Hajime No Ippo: The match of Takamura against Bryan Hawk for the world title. It takes place in a Japanese boxing hall, so basically the entire audience is rooting for Takamura. It helps that Bryan Hawk is blatantly racist against the "weak" Japanese.
- The World Youth Cup arc in Eyeshield 21.
- G Gundam is basically summed up with this trope, plus with earth as the battlefield and the rest of the population in space, the winner would literally be the strongest, and only, person on Earth.
- In fact the Gundam Fight was created to provide a (comparatively) peaceful alternative to war. The country whose representative wins the fight gets to rule over all the colonies for the next four years.
- The Oda Nobunaga Tournament in Yaiba includes participants from all over the world, and Yaiba even fought a European Knight. However it ended up with only Japanese Finalists.
- Samurai Champloo gleefully lampoons this trope in the episode "Baseball Blues", in which a group of Japanese peasants play a baseball game against a crew of brutish Americans, and the fate of Edo Era Japan hangs in the balance over the outcome. Naturally this is all played out within Champloo's typically anachronistic, exaggerated idiom. The most patriotic of the Japanese players are picked off in comical ways, while only Mugen (A thug with no patriotic fervour whatsoever) saves the country single handedly.
- The team of foreigners in Prince of Tennis (the ones who show up at Nationals, not the team from the Junior Senbatsu arc of the anime). Their playstyle is extremely violent, and they openly ridicule the Japanese team they play against, and Japanese tennis in general. Of course, the Japanese team was losing on purpose, and they win by a large margin once they begin playing seriously. Then they mock the foreigners' arrogance... in (equally broken) English.
- The world tournament series of the anime Medabots contains a truly stunning amount of cultural clichés (to be fair Team Japan don't get off lightly either) but the worst by far were Team France, who all sported twirly moustaches, spoke in exaggerated French accents and crept around in black cloaks lying and cheating their way to victory. This was so blatant it might possibly be considered a parody of the trope.
- Also incredibly stereotyped were the Canadians who sported at least four layers of snow gear and Medabots designed specifically for a snowy winter arena. They also unknowingly added "Eh?" to the end of sentences and used "aboot". And a blizzard was considered a "light dusting".
- Though one could easily argue that would be the dub production company taking pot shots at themselves.
- Iron Man's first encounter with Dirty Communist villain the Titanium Man was in the context of a televised battle on neutral territory agreed upon by the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
- In an early Judge Dredd story, a war between Mega-City One and a Sov-controlled East-Meg One is fought by fielding small four-man teams from each Mega-City against one another in an Olympics-style competition...to the death.
- The beginning of Kickboxer, where Jean-Claude Van Damme's Jerk Ass brother is a champion kickboxer, and decides to take on a Thai champion, Tong Po. It doesn't go well for him.
- Might serve as something of a Take That at the American tendency to describe the American Champion as the World Champion, since his Jerk Ass brother is the "World" (ie. American) Champion and declares his intention to go to Taiwan(!) as the Thais invented the sport. Following the Champ's humiliation, his humbler (Belgian!) brother learns how the Thais fight and (Spoiler!) avenges him.
- Rocky IV is the Cold War with boxing!!!! Unspoiler: The American wins, and everyone learns a valuable lesson about Patriotic Fervour.
- Robot Jox, where wars are replaced by Giant Mecha fights, complete with cheering (and easily smashed) crowd. The film ends with Achilles and Alexander evidently becoming friends instead of the expected fight to the death.
- Given that it's a send-up of Olympic coverage, Animalympics has these overtones.
- Fighters from the Japanese military were the primary villains in Ip Man, and Twister, the villain of Ip Man 2 was essentially a British version of the above mentioned Ivan Drago.
- Downplayed considerably in Chariots of Fire, in which the national teams are more amiable toward one another then might be expected. Probably Truth in Television, as Patriotic Fervour was very unfashionable indeed for many years after after World War One.
- Cyberpunk B-Movie Future Sport (starring Dean Cain) has two teams of a Hover Board Roller Ball rip-off (one representing the US of A, one representing a consortium of Asiatic nations) battling over sovereignty of Hawaii. Of course, the consortium players were not above kidnapping and assassination to get an edge...
- Inverted in Korean table tennis movie As One. The governments of North Korea and South Korea merge their national table tennis teams into one unified team, which competes together and wins the world championship, thus fostering International Friendship By Proxy.
- Polish crime writer Joanna Chmielewska in her short story idea proposed the ultimate solution of Cold War: a boxing match between the Soviet Secretary and the President of US. The Americans, of course, immediately impeached their president and elected a professional boxer, while the Soviet leader had to undergo Training from Hell. The result was left to reader's imagination.
- A short story by Bernard Werber takes this trope and combines it with Blood Sport. In the future, all international situations are resolved by televised soccer matches where anything goes (up to and including killing players), turning the stadium into a multi-biome obstacle course, allowing the use of jetpacks, radar and mixed-gender teams... The only rule remaining is that you can't touch the ball with your hands. The name of the story? Bread and Circuses.
- The second Red Dwarf novel, Better Than Life has this as part of the backstory for the GELFs. When humanity becomes too good at their favourite pastime (War), scientists shift their focus onto sport (Described as the new war), firstly through chemical enhancements, then through genetically engineering purpose-built athletes for different sports. Of course, limits are put in place after the Scottish football team fields a goalie in the World Cup who was nothing more than a massive oblong of flesh that is coincidentally the same dimensions as the goal.
Live Action TV
- Part of the plot for the latest revamp of I Spy, where American Heavyweight champion boxer Kelly Robinson decides to take on "European Champion" Cedric Mills, who's generically Eastern European.
- On Head of the Class when the Headsters took on a Soviet team in
a trivia quiz an academic meet, both when the Soviets came to the US and later when the Class went to Moscow.
- In pro wrestling, the Foreign Wrestling Heel is a stock type of heel.
- Irish Whip Wrestling amusingly had a match featuring the Scottish Drew Galloway fighting the Irish Sheamus O'Shaunessy inside the Verona Football Club wearing blue while Sheamus was wearing green. Yes, it was mostly coincidental, but sometimes you can't stop a trope from coming into play.
- In the World Wrestling League's lead up to crown its first champion of the Americas, this ended up being the case between Phenomenal BJ (Puerto Rico), Joe Bravo (Dominican Republic) and Laredo Kid (Mexico). Each even got to be the hometown face for a while, since the promotion ran shows in all three areas.
- Chess is essentially about one or more Cold War proxy showdowns, with the first act always featuring a highly publicized chess match between an American and Russian chess player. Predictably, the contest is manipulated behind the scenes.
- Soccer is notorious for rioting and fights breaking out at games. Disputed matches between countries where both the sport is extremely popular and national feelings run high have led to hundreds of deaths, especially in Latin America.
- The buildup and aftermath of the Nika riots of Constantinople make this Older Than Print, though in this particular case it was more akin to a showdown of political parties.
- This happened in real life with Super Smash Brothers at a huge tournament called Genesis, where the best North American player (and up until that point generally considered best player in the world) came one hit away from losing the grand finals to Europe's best player. Watching the matches, it comes down to a lot of cheering on both sides for their respective player/country.
- The so-called "Miracle on Ice", both in Real Life and the movie they made about it.
- The World Cup.
- The European Championship as well, especially when the Soviet Union played in the 1964 final against Spain.
- The Olympic Games. Turned Up to Eleven in 1936 by Nazi Germany, but the overtones of national dick-measuring never really went away afterwards.
- Most games between 1948 and 1992 were basically the Cold War being really fought - to the point both Moscow '80 and Los Angeles '84 had the opposing parties boycotting the games.
- On top of that, there were other diplomatic incidents at the Olympics not directly linked to the Cold War - most notably the Munich Massacre in the 1972 Games, and the African boycott of 1976.
- The infamous "Blood in the Water" polo match between Hungary and the USSR. Right on the heels of a Soviet invasion to put down a rebellion, the game degenerated into one of the most violent and emotional sporting events of the time.
- Any major gaming tournament, such as Evolution 2K. It's most obvious in 2D FightingGames, where the mindset can usually be broken down to "Daigo Umehara (Japan) vs Justin Wong (USA)".
- Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spasky in Iceland in 1972. Pity Bobby was insane and Spasky was not a serious communist party member. (Unlike Karpov who took over after Bobby went into hiding.)
- The second boxing match between American Joe Louis and German Max Schmeling was very much one of these. The bout happened just a little over a year before the start of WWII, and Schmeling had become a huge propaganda hero in Germany both for briefly holding the world title and defeating Louis years earlier. With the coming conflict seemingly inevitable, the eyes of the world were on the bout, which was viewed as a showdown between America and Nazi Germany. (Even if Schmeling himself was very much not a Nazi, and in fact lost favor with Hitler after shielding Jewish children from the Nazi regime.) The result was an epic Curb-Stomp Battle where Louis crushed Schmeling in a single round and was seen as a vindication for American and a blow to Hitler's "master race", all the more so because Louis was black.