SPidge Tales

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Baseball is (Still) Better Than Football and Basketball...and Always Has Been Better Than Soccer

Scanning through A.M. radio yesterday on my drive home, I had to stop on blowhard Sean Hannity’s Fox radio show. The topic was the wussification of American boys through youth league soccer. No argument from me here; soccer is gawdawful to watch (sorry Europe). And while World Cup soccer players are incredible athletes, probably more so than pro baseball, football, and basketball players, the idea behind mass youth soccer leagues is not great athletics but rather the idea of building up self-esteem through a sport where (while the good athletes will still stand out) the bad athletes won’t look so bad kicking the ball around, as opposed to Little League, where their deficiencies show in dropped pop-ups and swing-and-miss strikeouts.

Again, no quibble from me over the awfulness of youth soccer. My quibble is with Hannity’s suggestion of American football as the rugged individualistic antidote to soccer. Football is great; I played it, I watch it. But we have a better All-American game; a game truly steeped in our nation’s history: baseball.

This time of year, with the Super Bowl still fresh in mind, and the specter of college basketball’s March Madness front and center, it is easy to overlook America’s greatest sport, the sport that represents America’s truest values.

Sorry Sean Hannity, but your “football as symbol of rugged individualism” does not hold. Football, sad to say, is more symbolic of authoritarian communism (for those of you reading this from your far-from-reality socialist college classrooms, the only type of communism to ever exist is ruthless authoritarianism, but that is topic for another day). The rugged individualistic sport is basketball. Would this then make basketball America’s true pastime? No. Rugged individualism is not really the true American ethos. Baseball retains the title of national pastime by avoiding the extremes of both authoritarian communism and rugged individualism, offering us an American symbol of democratic togetherness where both team (community) and player (individual) shine.

In football, the coach is a Stalin-like dictator. Each player is just a pawn on the chessboard. Players at different positions, such as kicker or linebacker, don’t even really play the same game. The offensive lineman, for all his hard work, has not a statistic to quantify his value to the team. All hard work is solely for the collective.

Basketball is rugged individualism as ruthless capitalism. It is a team game, but it focuses on the individual. When we think basketball, we think not of great teams like the Celtics of old, the Showtime Lakers, or the 90’s Bulls; we think of Magic vs. Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron and Carmelo and Dwyane Wade. It is always and only the star players who are called upon to take the game winning shot. It is about finding Jordan (in the early 90’s) a supporting cast to win him a title; it is about (now) finding Lebron a supporting cast. It is all about the individual rising up, and the role player staying in his place.

Baseball, the truly American sport, is democratic togetherness. It is a truly team sport, but one where the individual, any individual, can shine. Every player plays both offense and defense. Depending on where the ball is hit, any player will have the opportunity to make the big catch. On offense, when it is time for the big hit, does the coach send up his best player? No. Whoever’s turn at-bat it is will swing. All nine players have an equal shot of being the player to swing for victory. This is America at it’s finest: each player has an opportunity, and it is up to him to do with it what he can to make the whole team better.

As for soccer, the top sport in Europe and Latin America? The mindless running around of kids kicking at the ball in suburbia with all those soccer mom minivans in the parking lot symbolizes the coming anarchy to Europe with its own demographic collapse. As for Latin America? They also love baseball, so there is hope.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home