God Likes Baseball Better than Football, and So Should We

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I’m Jonathan, and I write about worship in the church.

Except today, although I tied the title in as best I could.

I’ve been trying to write a post about worship for a week now, but with opening day coming up, well, I can’t seem to think about anything else.

Of course, football is now the biggest game in America, not because it’s better, but because as our collective attention span, hunger for violence, and constant need for over-stimulation has increased, our ability to appreciate beauty has declined. As the importance we place on Christian worship has decreased, worship at the Holy Church of St. Gridiron has ballooned.

The truth is, baseball isn’t just better than football. It’s WAY better. There are countless reasons why, but here are some of the most convincing for me. Feel free to chime in if you think of some others.

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Baseball has Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Football has…The Superdome? Soldier Field (which now looks like a flying saucer has landed on it)? The Los Angeles Coliseum? Baseball parks are like beautiful churches, each with its own unique style that doesn’t just influence the experience, but the game itself. Even the newest parks have character. The new football stadiums have luxury boxes, and little else.

There’s no stupid halftime show. The main event is the main event. Thanks to football, the term “wardrobe malfunction” is now in our vocabulary. There will never be a wardrobe malfunction in the World Series, except for a slight possibility of ripped pants.

Baseball is played in the summertime. Long days and warm evenings allow for the sport to be thoroughly enjoyed. So many of my happiest childhood memories are interwoven with the drama of the baseball season. Football shows up when our minds are on to other things, like school, work, and holidays. Football plays through the rain and snow and slush. And it’s gone before the weather gets nice again.

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Baseball gave us Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, Mel Allen, Jack Buck, Bob Elson, Red Barber, Bob Prince, Milo Hamilton, Jack Brickhouse, etc. The list goes on and on. Great baseball announcers are like old friends, stopping by for a daily visit during warm weather months. Football gave us…I don’t know…Dan Dierdorf?

Baseball is a game of suspense, discipline, and anticipation. Football is a game of instant gratification.

Punts. Enough said.

Onside kicks. Enough said.

Football is sanctioned violence. Period. Chase Utley was suspended for an intentionally violent slide. Football players are supposed to beat the crap out of each other on every play. I don’t always quote George Will, but when I do, it has to do with baseball.

“Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

NFL players have been cited or arrested for serious offenses more than 800 times since 2000. There is no such database for baseball players.

Football ends lives prematurely. We’ve always known that football is exceedingly dangerous. More recently, we’ve been learning just how dangerous it is from the sad stories of men like Junior Seau and Curtis Brown. Quite simply, football sucks the life out of its players. This may be a real problem for the NFL in the coming years, as the players from its most popular era face old age.

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Baseball’s Hall of Fame is in beautiful, serene Cooperstown, New York. Football’s is in Canton, Ohio. It’s next to a freeway. Not that it matters. Football’s history just isn’t worth celebrating the way baseball’s is.

Baseball fans are smarter than football fans. This is my hypothesis. I’ll check my facts later. But you can’t deny the cerebral aspect of baseball, especially statistical analysis. Just read some of SABR’s material. Or heck, watch “Moneyball.” Football has nothing like it.

Baseball arbiters have personality. Baseball gave us Bill Klem, Ron Luciano, Durwood Merrill, Eric Gregg, Dutch Rennert, Cowboy Joe West, and Balkin’ Bob Davidson. How many football officials can you name? Uh…Red Cashion…uh….

You watch the World Series to see who wins the World Series. You watch the Super Bowl for the commercials as much as anything else.

Baseball cares about PED use. Baseball’s records are sacred, and the fans hold those in charge responsible for being good stewards. It’s just not right that Jose Canseco was able to hit more home runs than Al Kaline. That sort of thing really gets to us. Football really could care less if guys juice, largely because its records are obscure and essentially meaningless.

There are ties in football. Ties!

Football is built on media hype. They play once a week, for God’s sake, and then endlessly chatter on about it all week long. A 16-game unbalanced schedule and it’s all over. Baseball imitates life. You play every day. There are winning streaks, losing streaks, hitting streaks, slumps, the ups and downs are a part of the game. It’s timeless, steady, and rhythmic. It’s a beautiful, disciplined ritual that marks our days.

Penalties. For the love, football penalties are annoying. Seriously, you might as well just throw the flag before the snap. Just save us the bother and go ahead and call holding. Let us know when it’s time to cheer. I’ll be looking for the Lemon Chill vendor.

Baseball’s best teams win. Playing 162 games has a way of sorting things out. And then there’s the postseason. One bad game in football, and you’re done. Baseball gives you a series to prove yourself.

Cris Carter et al. Baseball has its jerks, but it knows who they are, and it doesn’t let them talk. The NFL hands them the mic and says, “Go ahead. Be a bad role model.”

Baseball gave us “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” And we all stand and sing. Some parks still have an organ. Football gives us loud piped-in Hip Hop music and whatever crappy entertainment is playing at halftime.

Baseball players must play “on both sides of the ball.” At least in its purest form. I’d like the think the DH will be gone one day. Everyone hits, everyone fields. If you want to pinch-hit for the pitcher, fine, but he’s not coming back in. You want Keith Mitchell’s defense in left field? No problem, but Lonnie Smith can’t come back in and hit.

Baseball rewards hard work and skill more than sheer athleticism. The fact that Casey Candaele had a major league career is proof of this. When I first fell in love with baseball at age 7, Casey was my favorite player. He was 5’9″ and maybe 165 pounds. He wasn’t much of a hitter and had no power, but he could field adequately at six positions, make some contact, and run a little bit. More than anything else, he hustled. Think Pete Rose, only smaller, nicer, and less talented. He was short on physical prowess, but he played every game like it could be his last (which for him was a real possibility), and had a nine-year major league career to show for it. Oh, and his mother was a better player than he was.

Football has a clock, baseball has a calendar. I think one of the most beautiful things about the game is that it could conceivably last forever, and it always gives the losing team the chance to come from behind. There’s no such thing as “too little, too late” in baseball. Just like life, it’s never too late until the game is actually over.

Enjoy the season.

Play ball!

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