If you ask Average Joe (or Jane) American what the biggest sport in United States is the answer very well be the N.F.L. Ratings don’t lie, it is the most watched sport, but that doesn’t mean it stays number 1 forever, N.B.A. ruled the 90’s for a time when some guy named Michael was playing hoops.
But here are nine undisputed reasons why baseball still is and always will be our National Pasttime. Wait, nine? Yes, nine. Nine innings in baseball, nine reasons.
Longevity and players for decades – Aside from the quarterbacks and kickers football players take so much physical abuse it is not surprising that a player’s career lasts only 3 years on average, no matter how good you are, your body can only withstand a few hundred hits between 300-pound men. Seeing a player like Tom Brady who has been around for 15 years is more surprising than hearing that a 29-year old like Marshawn Lynch is hanging it up after only 9-years. More power to you M.L., get out while you still have your knees and your mind.
Aside from a few stars most N.F.L. rosters are more active than an airport departure board, it seems just as soon as you beginning to identify a player they are injured or someone a step faster is taking their snaps. Most players have a longer NCAA career then they do with the NFL.
Baseball, on the other hand, star players are typically hanging it up around 18 to 20 years. Not to say players in ball don’t swap rosters, but your mainstays are there, guys like Trout, Ortiz, Cabrera, Tanaka, Bumgarner, or McCutchen are going to likely grown old with a city and if they move on, they will play well into their 40s with another club.
Kids grow old with their baseball heroes, kids born in 2012 will likely start college before Bryce Harper hangs up his glove for the last time. How is that for Harper jersey longevity? Being able to identify a player like Clayton Kershaw over 20 years not only gives fans continued player recognition it also transitions into a legacy.
All sports have their legends, but the number of baseball players you can identify from past generations compared to other sports is just no competition. You can ask a 10 year old today who Franco Harris is and he may likely stare at you, but throw out Yaz, Stargell, Morgan, Bench or Carew they will say baseball; they can maybe even tell you 3 teams Reggie and Nolan played for over their careers.
The All Star Game v The Pro Bowl – This is a no brainer, find me one N.F.L. die-hard that looks forward to this game and I will show you a liar. Not only do the fans not care, but the players can’t be bothered. Honestly, can you blame them? If they are a playoff team they are likely a week or two from playing and just too sore to play another game. And if you are a regular season failure then it is dead smack in the middle of off-season and you are just back to home routine and family, no one needs that trouble.
But I don’t need to tell you the reasons the All Star Game is not only better than the Pro Bowl, but the best All Star showcase in sports, especially since Major League Baseball gave meaning to the game by deciding home field advantage in the World Series. Baseball is a game that works at a casual level.
Unless you live in WY you can watch pro baseball – There are 30 Major League teams, 240 affiliated Minor League clubs and 50 or so Independent League teams spread across the Continental United States. There are about 30 pro teams in each of the major sports, Baseball and hockey are the only 2 sports with any kind of successful development league with their fans.
Getting to a game can be time-consuming and expensive. Going to minor league games can be fun to see new young stars and also convenient because some days you just don’t want to have the kids in traffic and parking lots for half the day.
Cooperstown Hall of Fame – Canton, Toronto and Springfield have their place but they are just not the hallowed hall. This is the easiest argument to make, every year in December you start hearing the talk: “Who should get in?” “No he won’t be elected!” “Will Ken be the first unanimous vote?”
Sure Jordan and Wayne have coverage when they entered their Hall of Fame, but without Wikipedia can you name last years HoF inductees in football, hockey or basketball? Probably not, but most people can tell you who was elected to Cooperstown the last decade. Baseball’s Hall is just special.
Cost – As much as fans of the Red Sox and Yankees complain of their league high $50.00 average ticket price it is nothing compared to their N.F.L. counterpart’s in the Patriots and Giants who shell out an average of $125.00 per seat. The average price league wide in the Majors is $25.00 per ticket with four teams averaging under $20.00, with one of those teams being the Pirates who have been hot the past few years. Compare that to the N.F.L. who averages $85.00 a seat with the lowly Jaguars still getting $57.00 a seat.
A game a day from April to November – While there was once something to be said about Football being a Sunday thing it is a time of the past. Now we have football Monday night, Thursday night, Saturday night and Sunday. Baseball has always had its place as a long grueling season of 162-games across 200 days.
Baseball cards – Kids don’t put Gronk cards in their spokes, well they don’t really ride bikes anymore… but if they did, it would be ole Topps originals and probably the checklist. Kids and adults alike have always be drawn to collecting and sure people want a Brady jersey insert or a Newton rookie but people don’t collect football like they collect baseball cards.
Flow of the game – Don’t confuse this with length of the game. Football is a 3 hour game with 11 minutes of action. I don’t mean 11 intense minutes, I mean 11 minutes of players doing work. the other 2 hours and 45 minutes are huddles, snap counts and players walking around post play.
You go to a football game expecting to see running and hitting and it is like waiting in line for the concession stands. A lot of waiting for a stomach ache.
Baseball is like a chess game, slow and methodical. The action is in the precision. Seeing Jose Fernandez make a batter look stupid standing still banking on an off speed and the fastball is by him before he is done shifting weight. Baseball is meant to be played in the mind before it is played with athletics. Why else is it the most stat filled sport we have? It is a mathematicians supermodel.
Legacy – No sport has a legacy like baseball. Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson still to this day hold an effect on our society. Jackie Robinson is considered second only to Martin Luther as a civil rights pioneer for playing baseball. How many of you dumped ice water on your head for Pete Frates a few summers ago?
Not only are the stars there from our childhood to the grave but baseball itself holds a legacy in our own pasts. Children celebrate their first glove, their first catch. Communities come out to little league. Baseball is a game the community celebrate together. As we age we remember catch with our fathers and our first game or our last. It is a memory that connects to who we are and where we came from.