Post Superbowl: Baseball is Still Better!

February 8, 2011

On a song from the album that really gained them critical attention about 10 years ago, Drive By Truckers lead singer/songwriter Patterson Hood opined: “Me I was one of them p**** boys because I hated football so I got a guitar; but a guitar is a poor substitute for a football with the girls in my high school so my band hit the road” (“The Three Great Alabama Icons”). Such a sentiment seems apt now that Superbowl season has came and went. This year I didn’t bother tuning in at all; the Superbowl being the only football game I ever bother to sit through and then only for commercials, halftime shows and to perfunctorily take part in this sort of  US-only holiday that becomes more pervasive, expensive, and popular every year.

Like Hood, I have never cared for football; his statement reflected that sense that male non-football fans notice even if it doesn’t really bother them, that the overwhelming majority of their peers cannot comprehend  their disinterest in such a seemingly mandatory interest. A columnist on a graphic art and comics site I frequent wrote an interesting article awhile back (I’d link to it but can’t find it at the moment) about how he finds at his office the sports fans can openly and frequently talk about obsessive levels of fandom–quoting stats from plays and games dating back decades even–yet his interest in comics and graphic novels, including getting paid to write articles for comics journals and knowing the artists and writers that work on titles present and past in the same manner his coworkers can name players on teams is seen as somewhat freakish in comparison. Sports is a universal interest which invites high levels of fandom, creating its own network of socially acceptable bonding over said fandom.

So football. See, I came to sports fandom a bit late and not in not nearly as an intense manner as many; never caring for football and only having a passing interest in basketball, I rediscovered baseball in my early twenties, maybe five years ago; watching the games, rediscovering my childhood teams which I liked then for no rational reason and returned to liking now; I watched Ken Burns massive 10 hour documentary on the history of the game, caught up on giving my own management hand a try via Baseball on Playstation, read some literary journalism on the game, watched the predictable but entertaining sports drama films about baseball, etc.

I really do love baseball now and can watch any game when it’s on in season; yet, aside from certain occasional games, I can also pass on most games if something else is going on, and my love for the game never approaches the level of love I have for music, philosophy,  films, books, or comics. Yet I love baseball a bit more with everything I learn about it; it is one of those games that pays you back for learning its intricacies, subtleties, history, and stats.  I’ve waxed and waned on this site occasionally giving reasons why it’s the better game when compared with football, usually somewhat in jest, often invoking the classic Carlin skit. Now that football has passed from being a mandatory “male” interest to a seemingly mandatory “American” interest, I present a few post-superbowl reflections on why baseball still is the better sport!

I realize that criticizing football is inviting slurred insults my way; heck, even a football fan like Rolling Stone political hot head Matt Taibbi (who loves the game) can get ripped for criticizing the sport as he did  following a piece he wrote in a recent issue as part of his monthly football column in which he noted that the reason concussions were rampant and more often an occurrence now and would increasingly be so is because compared to earlier days today’s players have gotten bigger (due to genetics, steroids, diet), the game has gotten faster and more aggressive (due to fan expectations and advertisers), and the injuries were going to continue to build and be constant–that fans would have to accept responsibility for the collateral damage their hobby as viewers encouraged and that the big-wigs at NFL would have to decide how many physically debilitating events are an acceptable loss margin. Either that, Taibbi concluded, or Americans would have to embrace the game that all of Europe plays as football and we call soccer. So yeah, he got a bit of NFL sportswriters ire with those claims. So, don’t take my column so seriously, since every year even the friends I grew up with who also hated football seem to have been pulled into the armchairs to root for it now; I realize my opinion is that of a small margin of people (a fact I have to recognize in other ways, like I must be the only guy I know who hates “Family Guy” and “Glee” both).

So here goes:

Football is an American sport, granted; America took the name all of the world used for their global sport and attached it to a rougher, more aggressive stadium style game. Baseball is an American game too; the “american part-time.” Yet baseball is now popular in Japan, Puerto Rico, and South America. Baseball was born in America out of immigrant convergence, a game that took in all who came to find new lives and a game that traversed American history with the country, weaving and adapting like that other great American invention, Jazz (or even democracy!). Baseball created this poetic, subtle game that could translate to other cultures who caught a passion for it as well; football is an american game in an imperialistic manner–taking the name of a widely played and loves sport to co-opt it for something practically only played and cared about in this country. Football is ingrained with an American ethos–faster, stronger, crushing, commercializing; baseball’s american ethos is poetry, jazz, history, culture sharing and affirming.

Just some thoughts. Don’t hate.

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