Some of you may remember the classic George Carlin comedy routine in which he compares football and baseball by describing the language of both sports. As Carlin saw it, football has a distinctly militaristic tone – marching down the field, blitzes, sacks – while baseball has kind of a milk toast verbiage – pop-ups, runs, errors. Football also has a special kind of fan base, action aficianados – those that love hitting and tackling, while baseball fans are a more serious lot -patient, number-crunchers.
Because this is fall, the World Series and the National Football league games overlap and this year there can’t be a more stark contrast between the two games. While the NFL is embroiled in a desperate controversy over players taking a knee, owners threatening to fire players and calling them ” inmates” and our president wrapping the game in the flag, baseball has become a breathless series of exciting and interesting games that keep people glued to their wide screens till the wee hours of the morning.
For most of the last twenty or so years football has become America’s game as baseball was viewed as too boring. But just maybe the Astros-Dodgers series has turned baseball back to America’s game. Football still gets great ratings, but fans and pundits say the game is the sport that is getting boring and also brutal as name stars get carried off the field with neck and head injuries and field goals dominate the scoring. Meanwhile, home runs are flying off the bats of the Astros and Dodgers, reckless base-running is the norm, and god-like pitchers hitting the strike zone with supreme accuracy keep viewers in awe.
The American sports fanatic may be tiring of a game of concussions, political statements, threatened boycotts, and billionaire owners who get paranoid when African-American players challenge the system. Instead there is baseball, which may be slow and deliberate but in this age of stress could just be the calming influence on viewers and the nation. Personally, I hope the World Series goes to Game 7 so this country can witness a beautiful sport that is far from boring and requires special skills of concentration, timing, and power that have been downplayed in football to be replaced by helmet hits to the head.