By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Nothing in the world of sports says “America” better than baseball.
Throughout America’s history, baseball has shared its struggles and triumphs. The president chose not to cancel the sport to keep up morale during World War I. Baseball lent its best men to the service in World War II and foreran the struggle for civil rights and integration.
Political scholar and avid baseball fan, Dr. Mel Hailey, chair of the Department of Political Science, says baseball plays a deep role in politics – witness Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and her 2000 campaign, where her lifelong support of the Chicago Cubs became a potentially damning issue in Yankees-Mets country.
Analysts already predict President Bush, a former baseball owner, as a front-runner to be one of the next commissioners of baseball; no other sport has a tie between itself and the American republic as strong as the president’s annual first pitch of the season.
Meanwhile, strike three, the signal for “Yerrout!” and numerous other signs and sayings have been engraved into the American cultural lexicon. Classic images of urban stickball and rural ballfields are priceless, Hailey says.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, baseball tweaked its age-old tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to sing “God Bless America.”
Football, possessing no such tradition, could pay no such homage.
Some, however, would choose football to replace baseball as the American pastime. Famed political columnist and baseball historian George Will famously has said football combines the two worst features of American life-violence and committee meetings in the form of huddles.
The critics often cite television ratings for Monday Night Football and the Super Bowl, which routinely dwarf the competition, sporting or otherwise.
But the whims of Generation ADD receive too much credit, not enough skepticism.
Overall attendance for Major League Baseball outnumbers attendance for the other three major professional sports combined, Will said. More than 2.5 million children participate in Little League baseball; fewer than 350,000 play Pop Warner football.
Indeed, football’s attraction to the 18-35 male may trump baseball’s, but 30-degree temperatures, snow, sleet, wind and fat shirtless men with team letters painted on their chests do not make for a family experience.
Football features cold industrialism, where brute force creates success.
“The Cowboys lost last week, and now we have to wait ’til next week,” Hailey said. “In baseball, there’s always tomorrow.”
Such idealism, such yearning, created America and made her great. Edwin Newman said Americans overwork no word more than “great.” And she deserves no better pastime than baseball.