It’s That Time of the Year…Almost

September 3, 2008

So fall’s pretty much here even though it’s still hot out and that always signals the return of football and the winding down of baseball. Sure, post season runs through October but those of us without massive cable or satellite know that too often when it’s this time of the year and a small station can show football or baseball games that are running concurrently, much of the country’s going to opt with football. We’ll get the world series at least, it’s the one last big event near the end. I have to agree with many of the commentator’s from the Ken Burns documentary Baseball that there’s just something better about those approximately 30 weeks throughout spring, summer and early fall when baseball is in season. Just knowing there’s a game on somewhere, knowing that you can watch it on TV, listen to it on the radio, go to the park to see it or read about it in the paper, it adds to those weeks and months and helps make them the best part of the year. So, though I could go for pages about what makes baseball the greatest sport to have ever been played, I’ll simply leave you with two things.

First, a picture of a book you should pick up if you’re unfamiliar with baseball and would like to know some of the things about it that aren’t immediately evident when you first start watching it:

You can pick this one up for just over ten bucks on Amazon.com or at your local book shop for not much more, or check your local library.

Next, although most have heard, seen or read it before (and if you couldn’t guess that I would mention it from the picture that’s at the top of this post) I’m going to reprint the classic George Carlin baseball monologue as listed on http://www.baseball-almanac.com. With Carlin’s great wit he sums up many of what baseball fans feel make it the far superior sport.

“Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he’s out; sometimes unintentionally, he’s out.

Also: in football,basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do. If you’d ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform,you’d know the reason for this custom.

Now, I’ve mentioned football. Baseball & football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football: Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park.The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs – what down is it?
Baseball is concerned with ups – who’s up?

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog…
In baseball, if it rains, we don’t go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.
Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it’s gonna end – might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there’s kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there’s not too much unpleasantness.
In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you’re capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!”

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