The MLB playoffs are in full-swing. The Colorado Rockies won the National League pennant in pretty convincing fashion by sweeping the Diamondbacks in the NLCS, and now wait to meet the winner of a very exciting Indians/Red Sox ALCS in the World Series. It’s another great postseason, and yet every year baseball fans are faced with the same grim reality: no matter how thrilling the playoffs are, nobody seems to be watching. Nobody relative to NFL football, at least. It’s times like this when I am forced to shake my head and wonder why it is that so few people seem to realize that . . .
Every Sport Sucks Except Baseball
Personally, I think God cares way more about which sports we watch than what church we go to. When you strip away the superficial trappings of most religions, they all come out looking pretty much the same. Every faith has its radical fundamentalists who want to kill all the Jews/Palestinians/gay people; believers in every creed have to reconcile their religion’s supposed love of peace with the fact that it was responsible for the brutal slaughter of untold thousands of infidels at some point in the past. (Except the Jews — all of their acts of genocide were committed early in the Bible, and therefore never actually happened.) No, our religions don’t really separate us. Our sports preferences do.
Take baseball as an example. An elegant, beautiful game, full of grace, richly rewarding to the patient spectator. Every player needs to learn the game and pull his weight, or he can drag down the whole team. Sure, there’s incentive to strive for individual achievement — and personal accomplishments are rewarded and applauded — but the real goal is for the team to succeed. There’s no clock in baseball. You play until the game is over. To win, you can’t just build up a lead and then stall until the time runs out — you have to fend off the other side right to the end. And it ain’t over till it’s over, by God.
Know what that sounds a lot like? Life, bitch. How can those other sports compete with that? The answer, fuckface, is that they can't.
FOOTBALL: Baseball’s chief rival, consistently winning bigger TV ratings and thus generating far more ad revenue, though God only knows why. An ugly, depressing, joyless sport that takes a piss all over our cherished American values. “But Steve, football is the all-American game!” you may protest. To which I can only retort, “Which America are you talking about?” If you mean the America our founding fathers dreamt of, the America Martin Luther King Jr. fought to secure for his embattled people, the America whose ideals have inspired the other nations of the world . . . well, I’m sorry, but that America wouldn’t want anything to do with a sport so nihilistic, so demeaning to human dignity, so contemptuous of the uniqueness of the individual.
If, on the other hand, you mean the America that is run by corrupt political parties and greedy, amoral corporations, the America that is only too willing to line up to have its identity reduced to a number and a position, the America that has readily resigned itself to a life of futility, violence, and obscurity, a life ruled by technology and arbitrary rules imposed by distant, absolute authorities, then by all means, plan that SuperBowl party! Invite the whole neighborhood over, let ‘em watch anonymous, interchangeable players perform in insanely specialized roles, hoping to win a game that’s really just a great big fucking metaphor for communism! Thanks but no thanks, comrade. That American flag on the Moon says my side won the Cold War.
Technorati Tags: baseball, humor, sports BASKETBALL/HOCKEY/SOCCER: Somebody pulled a hell of a scam with this one. Ever notice that basketball, hockey and soccer are the exact same sport? If so, that makes you smarter than the television executives who have spent millions of dollars paying for the rights to televise games from all three. Okay, that’s not exactly true — it can’t cost that much to get the TV rights for a game of soccer (or, as it is known to most of the people who watch it, fútbol). Millions of sports fans across the world, particularly in the U.S., have nevertheless been duped. All three sports have the same premise, the same playing area layout, and mostly the same rules — you can only touch the ball/puck with your hands/feet/hockey stick, for instance. Quick — what sport am I describing in the paragraph below?
Vilonich steals it from Krycek! He breaks for the goal! Here comes Goransic, but he won’t be able to catch him! He’s almost there! Vilonich shoots — HE SCORES!
Thanks to the vast proliferation of eastern European athletes, I could have been describing any of the three sports. Is that fact upsetting to you, basketball/hockey/soccer fan? It should be. What is it that’s drawn you to these sports in the first place? All three are boring as hell, all three are brain-smashingly repetitive. “Yay, our team scored! Now the other team has the ball! Boo, they scored! Now we have the ball! Yay, our team scored! Now the other team has the ball . . .” And Canadians: being from Canada is not an excuse for watching hockey. You have baseball up there — use it. The only person who ever had a legitimate reason to be a hockey fan was Angel, from Angel. Him being a vampire, it made sense when he justified his hockey fandom by saying, “the games are indoors and mostly at night.” Are you a vampire? Then put down the puck, eh?
GOLF: On the up side, golf doesn’t involve five-man teams attempting to move a ball or puck past an opposing team and into a goal. On the down side, golf is not even close to being a sport. Nowadays most players aren’t even willing to expend the energy necessary to walk to the next hole. The most strenuous part of a game is trying to decide with which of the approximately 6,000 types of clubs available in the average golfer’s bag to hit the ball. In baseball, you get one bat. You use that bat whether the pitcher is a knuckleballer or a fireballer — it’s called knowing how to hit.
I know it’s difficult to hit a golf ball and have it go where you want it to. That still doesn’t make it a sport. It’s also a bitch to get the balls to go where they’re supposed to on a pool table, but 9-Ball ain’t a sport, either. Ditto for bowling, curling, chess, and that trick my Dad used to do where he caught a stack of nickels balanced on the tip of his elbow. It doesn’t matter how good Tiger Woods is at it — it’s not a sport if the mini version of it is way better than the full-size version, and it’s not a sport if recent alcohol consumption is a prerequisite for enjoying it, as a player or a spectator. Which is the perfect segue to the next shitty sport.
AUTO RACING: I don’t think this one’s a sport, either. Who are the athletes — the drivers? How’s that figure? The cars do all the work. And it’s the mechanics who are responsible for the cars. Why is it fun to spend a Saturday afternoon watching a pack of cars drive in a circle just to see who has the best mechanic? I could also repeat my observation about how repetitive basketball/hockey/soccer is, but then this article would be just like every NASCAR race ever held. Not only is auto racing suicide-inducingly dull, I suspect it’s also thoroughly corrupt. Remember when Dale Earnhart died in that crash at the Daytona 500 awhile back? (If you don’t remember, don’t feel bad — there is no reason you should.) How convenient that the very next NASCAR race held at that track was won by a certain Dale Earnhart Jr. Need I say more?
Furthermore, why would I want to watch a sport where my only investment is in hoping for a crash? Not waiting for a crash, mind you — not the thrill of seeing two cars narrowly avoid a crash — hoping for a crash because I want the drivers to die and their cars to explode. No sport that plays so heavily on the cruelest aspects of human nature should be allowed to flourish, to say nothing of the debt NASCAR owes to every human being for inflicting Jeff Gordon on society.
HORSE RACING: This sport exists for two reasons: to give gambling addicts something to bet their paycheck on, and to give Charles Bukowski a setting for awesome short stories. Since Bukowski’s been dead for thirteen years, and since nobody but the gamblers themselves actually likes gambling anyway, I’d say it’s time to put horse racing out to pasture. Like auto racing, the athletes in horse racing aren’t the ones who actually do any of the work. Look at that cocky little jockey in that picture over there. I’d trust him about as far as I could throw him — not even that far, since I could probably pitch him out there a good ways. He wins the race and he gets all the money, glory, and assorted flower arrangements. What reward does the horse get who actually, you know, won the race? The honor of not getting shot in the head and fed to a meat grinder. Yet.
Horse racing also strikes me as not on the level. Ever see that episode of Adventures of Superman, when those crooks won a horse race by rigging the saddle to shock the horse, prodding it to run faster? If Superman hadn’t been there, they’d have totally gotten away with it. In real life there is no Superman, so I bet that sort of thing happens all the time.
BOXING: Imagine pro wrestling if the wrestlers could only touch each other above the belt with their heavily padded fists, and the spectators still thought it was real. There you have boxing, one of the most barbaric sports still practiced in the world today not involving dogs or roosters. Thousands of people buy tickets to live events, millions more tune in at home on HBO, Showtime, or pay-per-view, to watch people beat the living shit out of each other for the public’s amusement. We break the fights up into timed rounds and force the combatants to wear gloves, which I guess makes us better than the ancient Romans.
Defenders of boxing like to call it “the sweet science,” which puzzles me to this day, since I can’t find anything sweet or scientific about watching two guys try to punch each other in the face for twelve rounds. Some very erudite people have been boxing fans throughout history — not just rich elitist scumbags who get off on watching people with less money than they have try to kill one another, but writers like Ernest Hemingway and the aforementioned Bukowski, film legend Tony Curtis, and the very embodiment of class, political mercenary James Carville. Go to a baseball game, famous people. If it’s good enough for Stephen King and Ben Affleck, it’s good enough for you, Joyce Carol Oates.
SHOOTFIGHTING: Imagine pro wrestling if it were a legitimate combat sport, and 10,000 times slower and more boring. You’re imagining shootfighting! Sure, you’ve got to be a tough hombre to climb into the ring/octagonal cage/pit and face the likes of Josh Barnett or Kazuyuki Fujita (whoever they are). You’ve also got to be tough to perform your own root canal. Should we make self-root canaling a spectator sport, too? Is that what you’re saying?
Not only is shootfighting (“mixed martial arts” as its promoters call it — their “sports entertainment”-esque euphemism of choice) an uncivilized bloodsport, it’s also about as exciting as wheelchair bowling. See that picture over there? Okay — stare at it for twenty minutes. Congratulations: you’ve just watched a typical bout of the Ultimate Fighting Championship! If they aren’t giving each other an extended hug, they’re pacing around one another in a circle, nervously dodging from left to right whenever it looks like the other guy might be ready to throw a punch. If one of those punches, or, god forbid, kicks manages to connect, the poor bastard on the other end can say good-bye to a few teeth, and perhaps a percentage of brain function as well. Granted, most shootfighters are morons who enjoy hitting things, and things hitting them, who probably couldn’t find another way to contribute to society, but I believe in an America that forces these men to earn minimal livings fighting in seedy underground night clubs or abandoned junkyards, not on national television for purses of hundreds of thousands of dollars. What does that say to the rest of the world about us?
IN CONCLUSION: I think I’ve demonstrated that baseball (or, as it’s known to most of the people who play it, béisbol) is the superior sport, the only sport worthy of your time and money, the one and only game worthy of the title America’s National Pastime. What do other sports offer in answer to baseball’s elegance, simplicity, poetry, and lyrical beauty? Violence, cruelty, barbarism, denigration, and bloodlust. I say we banish these most contemptible traits of humanity back to where they belong — in the home. And when you’ve finished beating your kids/pet/wife/husband/elderly parent, settle onto the couch with a plate of cheese and pretzels and a refreshing glass of Coca-Cola, and watch the one real and true sport in the world, the game that not even decades of incompetent ownership, spoiled players, and rampant drug abuse could destroy. Play ball!