Baseball Season Begins: Football Dominates Americas Psyche
In what was nothing short of a brilliant and funny skit on the differences between baseball and football, comedian George Carlin hit the ball out of the park.
Carlin might not have known it at the time, but his skit spoke to why football and not baseball has become America’s sport.
Opening day and another glorious baseball season is upon us, yet football even during baseball’s curtain riser, continues to challenge for America’s media market share.
And for good reason, it has literally dominated our minds and hearts.
Carlin riffed that baseball is a game which was invented in the 19th century and to this day is most frequently played on a beautiful field in a picnic like environment. Conversely, football games are played on a gridiron in an emotionally charged aggressive atmosphere.
Football is a brutally physical game, ruled by a time clock where the action is relentless and most anything can happen on any play. This all lends to a sense of anticipatory excitement that many see lacking in baseball.
During baseball games, at times it can seem like an eternity between pitches, or when the next ball is put into play.
There is little doubt that football appeals to the most underdeveloped parts of our brains as well as the fast paced frenetic “in the moment” society we have become.
Thus, it is particularly appealing to both our youth and males who were taught at a very early age that they cannot nor should they have to wait a minute for anything. Instant gratification is the norm, the need.
As a species we possess a built in biological proclivity for activity and at times aggression, as there are physical reasons as to why a male’s frontal lobes does not fully mature until after the age of twenty-five.
This is the area of the brain that is stimulated when violence and action are viewed creating a need for more and more stimulation to settle the restless frontal lobes down, and football has the perfect stimuli to satisfy this need.
The football stadium is nothing less than a modern day Roman Coliseum and should be paired as a double feature with Mixed Martial Arts bouts whose appeal continues to be on the rise. It is a thriving craze that is aimed directly at the “thumbs down” crowd.
Some would say that a certain subset of the male population’s frontal cortex, where the seat of judgment and higher reasoning resides, never fully develops. And many biological determinists would agree.
Back in the cave days there was little time for males to talk things over when either a predatory species or other beastly males attempted to inflict harm on them– or their brood. So those that thought before they acted were at a disadvantage and might not have survived, as only the strongest or the quickest to act prevailed.
Some would suggest that there has been little change in the development of the male brain over the millions of years since our beginning. And it seems that the gap between females and males in terms of judgment has significantly narrowed when it comes to being aggressive and impulsive.
We have become a society who lives for the moment and too often requires immediate gratification, as our own biological set points have been used against us as we are drawn to quick stimulating events like moths to a flame.
And the media has keenly both accommodated our biological and quickly changing appetites, while consistently reinforcing and creating programming that is targeted to our baser desires. It has had the effect of both decreasing our attention spans and intellects– as America continues to dumb down.
Our youth are fed a steady stream of violent video games, and fast paced entertainment from all media genres. And as parents we are glad to accommodate them-perhaps because we are just like them?
It is no wonder that the diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder has risen in this country and is the highest in the world.
We have been molded into a nation that has the attention span of fleas while at the same time we follow the downward trend like sheep being led to slaughter.
How is baseball or for that matter any other well thought out, long form genre to survive in this flea brain environment?
This is the complaint of many educators, artists and those with an IQ above the midline, who crave to create more intellectually stimulating products.
It is also no wonder that the NPR aficionados are falling by the wayside. And quite frankly many may not even know what NPR stands for.
With compromised attention spans we are prime candidates for action genres such as football, and unfortunately baseball does not fit that mold.
Baseball is a game that has an extremely difficult skill set to master. It also requires focus, patience and a modicum of intelligence. Thus it does not appeal to those who require immediate gratification, or success, as more often than not batters are not successful.
Having spent countless hours both watching and coaching youth baseball players standing in the outfield looking up in the sky, twirling around, or putting their gloves on their heads, it has been quite an eye opener.
It has caused many a coach to exhort players to be ready as they fear that they will be hit by a screaming line drive while they are being inattentive–sometimes to no avail.
And to be fair even professional baseball players lose their focus. Hey standing around for long periods of time in temperatures that are as different as the North and South Poles can do that to a player.
Baseball is a great game but there is little doubt that it is more complicated than football and a whole lot harder to initially master. For those who cherish it, there is nothing like standing in centerfield and taking it all in.
Think about this; you are standing in a box and you have 1.4 seconds to decide whether or not to swing the small wooden stick in your hand at a small white ball traveling at death defying speeds. It is no small feat to make contact!
Faced with other options that are much easier, and with instantaneous payoffs, it is no wonder that our youth are all too ready to put on the pads and play football, soccer and lacrosse and run around endlessly with few stops in the action.
There is no doubt that baseball has helped promulgate its own demise. Greed is a very powerful aphrodisiac and baseball, like other sports, is now run by the television networks who have become their partners in crime
Many teams would be in dire financial stress without the monies that the networks pay them.
It has been pointed out that schedules and start times are not driven by the desire to gain new and young fans but by the networks and some greedy and needy owners who want to make a fast buck in the here and now.
Perhaps that is why the price of some tickets and the total expense for a family to go to a game has become prohibitive for many.
Who cares about the future anyway? It is all about instant gratification. Isn’t it?
With the launch of the MLB network, MLB has offered various viewing packages, and if you have the means and the desire, you can watch most any game in what seems like at times a season that will never end.
What other sport has the opportunity to play its penultimate event, the World Series, in football like weather conditions? Better to stay home and tune in then freeze outside while watching the players bundled up in winter gear.
The lords of baseball have tried to make changes to the game, bringing about a struggle between the traditionalists and the reformists who want to modernize the game, while draining every last penny out of it. This has proven to be a formula that is sure to fail– and is failing.
Nonetheless, a generation or more has seen the introduction of the DH, inter-league play, continuing changes to the playoff schedule, as well as a plethora of other alterations to how the games are played and marketed.
Technological advances have brought about instant replay, Questec, and the ability for fans to have access during the game to a smorgasbord of information about their favorite players and teams.
It is no wonder that fantasy baseball has become a big hit and shown more growth than the sport itself.
Concern about the length of the games continues and the powers that be, in the commissioner’s office, are constantly attempting to create a balance between what advances in technology can bring to the game and the effect that technology invariably has on it.
This year manager’s will have the opportunity to question select umpire calls. Word also has it that the player’s introductory music will be shortened, which brought about protests from Shane Victorino of the Red Sox who stated that it will take away from the fans enjoyment of the game.
But what is really transpiring in baseball is mirrored in what is happening in our society as a whole.
In a day and age when people embrace the quick and easy over the long and hard, while always looking to take the short path, no one seems to want to pay their dues.
Students think they should receive a good grade because “they” have deemed their own work is worthy of it. Newly hired youth in entry level positions are demanding promotions to higher positions after being on the job for short periods of time.
All is done at an accelerated pace and no one seems to think they need to pay their dues, but the fact is that they do not know what dues are. So how would they know to pay them?
And baseball has come along for the ride!
Back in the day, players spent long periods in the minors before being brought up to the major leagues. Today players spend much less time down on the farm.
Some are suggesting that today’s players are major league ready sooner, but I suspect that players are being brought up out of necessity as there are not enough good players to fill major league rosters, as expansion and a lack of a deep talent pool has forced premature promotions.
And to that point, it was reported that Yankee manager Joe Girardi complained to owner Hal Steinbrenner that players who were coming up through the Yankee farm system were fundamentally unprepared to play at the major league level.
There is good reason why baseball has so many players from all over the world. Much in the manner that our country is not producing the talent to solve our country’s problems, baseball like America continues to look to foreigners to fill the void.
Perhaps the games of baseball and football, which require different physical and personal skill sets, offer us both a choice and a solution?
Are we going to be peoples that forge ahead without thinking while acting impulsively and requiring immediate stimulation and action much like our cave dwelling ancestors?
Or are we going to be more pensive, thoughtful, and patient while realizing that success is often borne out of failure and persistence?
As it stands right now we are playing life much in the same way we are playing football, fast and furious. Carlin truly did hit the ball out of the park.
Maybe we ought to rethink our choices and demonstrate to the biological determinists that there is a true balance between nature and nurture and we are not driven by our primitive brains, and play the game of life a bit more on a beautiful baseball field then on the gridiron.