Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More American than Baseball

American culture, like the nation itself, is ever changing. Things rarely stay the same. So, what's more American than baseball, apple pie and hot dogs? I can think of a number of things, and one of them has to do with a Vietnamese man massaging my face.

See, American culture is always shifting, always developing and rarely ever remaining the same. Sure, baseball is America's #1 sport...if this is the 1960s. Here are a few things that are provenly more American than baseball.

1. Cowboys - No, not like the Dallas Cowboys. Those are a bunch of pretty boy girly men who consistently under perform. They're like the Colin Ferrel of football (who, by the way, is recognized for one great role in Crazy Heart where he plays a country singer who wears a cowboy hat. Proving my point about cowboys). I'm talking cowboys like John Wayne cowboys. You know, the larger than life, mostly unrealistic, Hollywood depictions of cowboys. The trailblazers. They're rough, rugged and the foundation of what America is supposed to be about. They go out into the wild and conquer with no remorse. Cowboys are the reason we have words like wrangle, buckaroo, and rustler. They're the original captains of industry and they are most certainly American. I dare you to tell a cowboy to his face he's not American.
2. Football - Not only is the NFL America's consensus #1 favorite sport (source, Harris Poll), it also more accurately represents the nation. Yes, in the 1940s and 50s baseball was America's game. It is our pastime, there's no arguing that. However, the NFL has reached a level of popularity, success and intrigue that is unmatched by other sports. The shortened season (you know, not 162 games), the notoriety of the Super Bowl and the ad revenue gained cause it to eclipse the popularity of the MLB, NBA or NHL. In the NFL each game is crucially important to the season, when you play 162 games you can lose 76 games and still make the playoffs and clinch your division. 76 GAMES! The Indianapolis Colts haven't lost 76 games this DECADE. Placing an importance on winning, that's American.
3. Synthetically Manufactured Recreational Chemicals - Sure there are drug problems all over the world, but there is something distinctly American about recreational drug use. Think about it, American scientists have made great strides in developing growth hormones and steroids that boost performance, yet are relatively undetectable on most regulation drug tests. That way, people who compete athletically can break records and generate buzz about their sport under the guise of legitimacy. Its so exciting! We Americans love falsifying record books and cheating to get ahead. Its what makes our country great! ....Face it, you're sport is forever tainted, and that's not American (Neither is the Tour de France sans Lance Armstrong).
4. NASCAR - The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is America's most popular spectator sport (source, Harris Poll). If you've seen a Goodyear Blimp shot of a raceway you know two things. 1) They are enormous and 2) they are filled to max capacity. NASCAR is even more American when you attend the race. You have down home, salt of the earth type people drinking cheap beers, eating fatty fried foods, and hooting and hollering. NASCAR is deeply rooted in tradition and stems from the American auto-business, a staple in the foundation of modern American factory work and mass production. Make fun of its viewers all you want, don't call it a sport, say its full of hicks, whatever. But it is American. Plus, watching cars crash is more exciting than watching a player adjust the straps on his gloves, his helmet, his jock strap, spit twice, squeeze the bat and readjust his jock again. Seriously, it is. In fact, I just spent 10 minutes YouTubing baseball at-bats and couldn't bring myself to link one here because they're so boring.
5. Barber Shops - Barber shops represent the American dream. What's more American than a Vietnamese family moving to America and starting up a successful business? I love getting my hair cut at these places. Who cares if my $15 hair cut doesn't immediately make the ladies swoon? When was the last time baseball wrapped a warm towel around my face and massaged my neck? Huh!? And how many rhetorical questions can I ask in a row?!?!

I could go on, talking about big business, coal, steel, oil and tobacco. The things America was founded on and [unfortunately] still run it today. But, much like watching baseball, you'd need to have giant sausages racing around to keep me interested. Baseball is so boring they've incorporated a designated time for everyone to get up from their naps and stretch. Perhaps they'll sing a song to get their juices flowing again so the crowd can be focused for the final innings. Does this happen anywhere else in the world that isn't the 3rd grade?

Look, baseball is a pastime for a reason. And quite frankly (pardon the pun) its time has passed. It needs a major overhaul. Baseball fans you know you agree a little bit with this fact. Baseball is broken. The season is 162 games, about 130 games too long. There are baseball games on TV almost everyday from April to October. Not to mention Spring Training in March. Are you kidding me? Its like when Germany began printing money after World War I. They printed so much that it had no value. People were wallpapering their houses with Franks, kids played with bricks of money like toys and it didn't make a difference. Similarly, you could build a full size replica of the Trump Tower with worthless baseball games.

We already talked about steroids, and I won't abuse that too much. Its like squirting lemon juice in a paper cut. However, steroids have not only questioned the integrity of the sport, they've made it even less exciting. Sure hitting 34 homers in a season is a nice achievement, but will the casual fan even care? If it's not 70 or more we are not interested. I'll admit, I watched when Sosa and McGwire were hammering them at every at-bat. Now? Not a chance. To make up for this, incredible emphasis is placed on absurd statistics. Do I care that Justin Morneau's OPS was .878 in 2009? DOES ANYONE UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT SENTENCE MEANS?!

In fact, baseball is so numbers obsessed that a whole new analytical tool was created to observe the game. Sabermetrics allows baseball nerds to obsess over every minute aspect imaginable. As if their sport has lost so much credibility that my high school's "It's Academic" team was challenged to come up with some physical evidence to measure the game by. Sabermetric users would say that batting average isn't important because it provides a poor fit for teams runs scored. I would say, spend less time with a calculator and more time learning to talk to girls. Instead, they emphasize on base percentage and other tired old statistics that make the game less entertaining. What kind of stats do you hear about in football? Touchdowns scored and yardage gained. Basketball? Points, assists and rebounds. Nascar? Wins and top 10 finishes. Why are there hundreds of different stats for baseball? With more being created each year!

Those aren't the only problems. The league has no salary cap, which means rich teams get richer and poor teams get poorer. It destroys the integrity of the game and consolidates the talent pool to wealthier teams while ball clubs in smaller markets struggle to stay afloat. Why are the Yankees always good? Well, they're the most recognizable baseball team, right? So they sell lots of merchandise, right? So they have more money than say, the Kansas City Royals, right? So they can pay A-Rod $250 million and not break a sweat.

Its just a flawed, obnoxious sport that survives on the glory days of its past. I don't doubt the game used to be a staple of American culture, and that it is still a widely popular sport, but its just not relevant anymore. You're either a baseball homer or you're not. Baseball fans, you are like hockey fans from a few years ago. There are fanatics who can talk your ear off about why their sport is great and the tradition and blah blah blah. And then there's everybody else, who knows that having to watch a baseball game is worse than having to wear a wool turtleneck in August.

The stadiums are pretty cool though. I'll give you that.

1 comment:

  1. As Colin Cowherd once said:

    [Annotated] Baseball is like your grandma who refuses to accept change.

    So absolutely correct about all of this and why Baseball is no longer relevant in America. Not only, but the percentage of American athletes who play the game is dwindling as well. NASCAR (at least Sprint and Nationwide Cups) will never be overrun with people immigrating into America or being pulled off of plantation in *insert small impoverished country near the equator* to hit a little ball with a stick.

    In addition to your point about the NHL from a few years ago, they decided to revamp. They adjusted some rules (like shrinking goalie pads) to make it more exciting with more scoring, got some exciting young players like Alex Ovechkin and Sydney Crosby to liven up games and rivalries, and the sport's popularity has risen significantly, especially in places where the teams are competitive.

    Baseball's answer to boredom with their sport? Nothing. They have made no changes and adjusted nothing in order to try to make it more interesting and exciting for their fans. Sabermetrics is not a change.

    Well done Andrew. Very Well done.