A Simple Rebuttal to a Bold Statement of Frightful Inaccuracy Regarding the State of Affairs of that Most Sacrosanct of Sporting Affairs, the Treasure Trove of Existential Eccentricities, the Apple Pie of our Eye, and how a Simple Misunderstanding and Misappropriation of Thought, Time, Care, and Concern will Inevitably Result in the Misguided Notion of Irreverence in the Face of Centuries of Trial and Error, and How Better to Appreciate the Simplistic Joy of the Nation’s Greatest Game
Why Bean is a Douche
Recently, it has come to my attention that one of my esteemed co-editors has put out a piece regarding the status of summer sporting events in the United States as being “boring as fuck.” (Bean, pg. 1) In fact, it would seem that baseball has earned my colleague’s ire in particular. He has invited me, in effect, to respond to his article with a rebuttal of my own form and nature, and given the particularly vicious manner of his approach, it feels all too necessary that I should jump to not only defend our national pastime, but also to point out the glaring inaccuracy of some of his statements.
“To me baseball lacks that essential sense of drama that gives other sports their appeal.” (Bean, pg. 1)
I will establish that this is my colleague’s opinion, and as far as I am concerned, he is welcome to it. However, to state that baseball lacks an essential sense of drama is to misinterpret the nature of what is happening in front of you. Baseball is as filled with drama as any other sport, if not more so. To say that playoff baseball is some of the most compelling theatre our national sports scene can offer is to trivialize the regular season.
While there are plenty of meaningless games in a baseball season, I offer you the entire season of the Jacksonville Jaguars from the last year. The football fanatic might argue that losses affect a team’s upcoming draft status, increasing or decreasing their ability to improve the team in the offseason. I offer you that baseball is the same, and by looking at the Washington Nationals, it is possible to see a team improving its standings through losing.
As far as how losing one game in the long run would seem meaningless, I offer you that if the Boston Red Sox or Atlanta Braves of last season had won simply ONE more game during the regular season, during any of these losses that supposedly don’t matter, they would have made the playoffs, avoiding the MONUMENTAL and HISTORICAL collapses that they led up to. The final day of the season last year, Game 162, featured four elimination games in which teams had to win to keep their seasons alive or go home to face the inevitable shame and humiliation of the offseason all winter long.
Baseball is motivating simply because of the fact that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, a team can be putrid in April and not worth the price of admission (the same in any sport), but by September, their storyline may be of a team that has fought its way through the long season to find ultimate redemption. To struggle through a baseball season, to enjoy every minute of the ups and downs, is to truly be a fan. The baseball season is a five-act drama by Shakespeare, a glorious tragedy by Sophocles, or a modern piece by Tom Stoppard. It is not the equivalent of “The Big Bang Theory” (The NFL), “Law and Order” (the NCAA), or Telemundo (Hockey).
“It’s only when baseball reaches the late-season push or a playoff spot that there is any sense of drama to individual games, but even that is being undone by Bud Selig’s dunderheaded effort to expand the playoffs to include more teams.” (Bean, pg. 2)
Ah, but you must present the facts for what is happening here. True, the playoffs have expanded to include a wild card team, which has made for some of the most exciting playoff baseball in history. Now Selig is adding a second wild card team, true. But the format is a wild card elimination round, where the two teams play a sudden death game, where the winner immediately turns around and plays the best team in the league. Never mind that this has already happened three of the last five years with last year’s day of Game 162 giving quadruple the pleasure. All of which makes for more exciting baseball, and lets teams truly count those blown leads, those wasted at-bats, and those times where a shortstop bobbles the ball costing his team the game.
“football makes up for its slow pace and limited action by imbuing every moment with mercilessly high stakes.” (Bean, pg. 2)
I submit to you the first two weeks of the NCAA football season, most of the college basketball season, and any and all games featuring the Cleveland Browns. The big NCAA football leagues regularly schedule cupcake games to start the season, games where the only incentive for the lesser school is a massive payout from the football behemoth gracing them with their presence. Granted, these turn interesting occasionally (see Appalachian State, which I hear is hot, Hot, HOT) but more often than not, they’re meaningless, a way for college football stars to pad their stats. Maybe a third of a football team’s schedule is meaningful, the SEC notwithstanding — and even their dominance is getting old to most of the rest of the country. Their playoff formula is so meaningless that the President has called for playoff reform. In the middle of a recession!
As for the NFL, their season may seem to be high stakes. However, there are just as many snooze-fests in the NFL. The only thing that makes a blowout of the Dolphins by the Patriots is how many fantasy football points Tom Brady has scored. At which point, you’re not really watching the game for the “mercilessly high stakes” (Bean pg. 2). In addition, exactly how much did winning enough games to gain home field advantage work out for the San Francisco 49ers or Green Bay Packers last year? Those high stakes increasingly turn out to result in flip of the coin wins or losses that were unaffected by home field advantage.
“What eludes me is why this is still considered a sport worth investing time or interest in when the modern world (and other sports) moves at such a wickedly fast pace.” (Bean, pg. 2)
It is because the world moves so fast that we need a reminder of what it is like to breathe. To enjoy what is before us. Baseball, and sport in general, is a young man’s game, which can cruelly turn upon its athletes at a moment’s notice. (The average baseball career is five years. In the NFL, it’s three or fewer.) Sports are filled with wonderfully human moments (see Magic Johnson, Bo Jackson, Roberto Clemente, etc.), and nevermind that one of the pioneers of the modern civil rights movement played second base. Baseball will result in the occasional injury, affecting a player’s entire life, but as a whole, it is far less destructive than football. Concussions are an afterthought in baseball, while the football world glorifies hard hitting despite the fact that these hits are increasingly turning the game into a gladiatorial game of “Last Man Standing”. How is watching men turn their brains into jelly any better than watching this “antiquated” sport?
(For the record, my colleague has also expressed his wish that his children never play football, a sentiment I share whole-heartedly. I have no interest in subjecting my children to a lifetime of potential disability. There are dozens of team sports for them to learn bonding, teamwork, and competitive spirit beyond the gridiron.)
“Football is the national pastime” (Bean, pg. 2)
I would call attention to the definition of pastime: “something that serves to make time pass agreeably; a pleasant means of amusement, recreation, or sport” (Dictionary.com). I would argue that while football makes time pass agreeably, it is by no means pleasant. It may be our national game, but it’s certainly not a pleasant time. It is marketed as a loud, raucous sports-bar-type filler, designed to placate society until the next tossing of bread (football) to the masses (NFL fans) by the Emperor (Commissioner Roger Goodell). There’s something entirely too brutal and too Roman in nature about football for it to ever serve as the national pastime.
In closing. I would also like to call to attention the time that my colleague and I attended a Triple-A baseball game of the Toledo Mud Hens. Minor league baseball might be considered even more meaningless of a game than an MLB game. True. However, I don’t recall us missing any of the “untold possibilities [of] fun and camaraderie” of the summer. (Bean pg. 2) If anything, it was a fantastic evening that we all enjoyed at the ballpark. Something that hasn’t changed since the 1920’s, yet is ever evolving (see the DH, a feature I abhor but tolerate because it allows for people like this bloke).
It is important to note that there is a certain elegance to a baseball field. The dimensions are the same in the infield, but ball parks are wonderful expanses that are designed to fit around their community. No two fields are the same (anymore, thanks to the demise of cookie cutter stadiums), and are constructed to enhance the views of their respective cities. The ball fields in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Minnesota not only show off their teams, but allow for natural enhancement of their cities. They show off natural grace and splendor, while the fields in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles are national institutions of architecture. There is no experience like a game in Fenway Park. Football stadiums are cold, exclusive hulks that do nothing to allow for natural beauty. No, focus is on the field and nowhere else. There is no grace or elegance in football, only the floor of the Coliseum, where men batter each other into submission while the crowd roars. It is Stadia Barbarica.
Baseball remains a worthwhile endeavor, a beautiful game that reminds us of where we’ve come from, allows us somewhere to go, and lets us revel in the natural beauty of what it means to be alive. In a world where everyone seems bent on moving faster and faster, it is a wonderful pastime that allows us to relax and enjoy ourselves, rather than supplicate our attention away by watching fat men in tight pants collide again and again. This only adds to why baseball remains the National Pastime.