December 8, 2012

Baseball popularity declines with collapse of American democracy

Since the 1980s, when the First American Republic began to collapse, one of the most democratic of sports, baseball, has declined from being tied with football, one of the most fascist of sports, to being 23 points behind in popularity according the latest Rassmussen Report

"53% say football is their favorite sport to follow. Baseball comes in a distant second with 16% support, while basketball is the favorite of 11%. Six percent of Americans prefer hockey, with no other sport including soccer, auto racing, golf and tennis reaching five percent."

That's a 29 point leap for football and a seven point drop for baseball since a Harris survey in 1985. 

As I put it in Sam Smith's Great Political Repair Manual (Norton 1997):
Baseball is among the most democratic of sports. Each player is given great freedom and specific turf to guard, but this individuality only works when all the members of a team cooperate. Baseball, Eugene McCarthy has pointed out, is unique in that the game is not restricted by either time or space -- games theoretically can go on forever as can an out-of-the-park homer. He also notes that while in other sports you might hear fan suggestions that the ref be fired, it is baseball in which the crowds cry, Kill the umpire! Thus the game, like America itself, celebrates not only a deep distrust of authority and a lack of limits, but also cooperation, individuality, and community.
For a look on the dark side, some thoughts on football

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

US football is descended from rugby, which was modeled on war. Small wonder that it's popular with the constant drumbeat of war propaganda

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that soccer (gasp!) is even more democratic than baseball because (a) like baseball, each player has his own area of responsibility, etc., but (b) unlike baseball, the manager does not have the ability to replace (i.e., "fire") every single player that starts the game. Instead, the manager of a soccer team is restricted to replacing no more than three (3) of the eleven (11) players on the pitch at the start of the game. So once the manager picks his starting lineup, the result of the game is pretty much in the hands of the players so chosen.

Samson said...

George Carlin said it best (as usual)

http://youtu.be/IhN1ExFCXNA

Anonymous said...

The collapse of sandlot baseball with children marks the end of Clay's American system. The new requirement of athletic skill in expensive organized sports supervised by parents matches with the transition to oligarchy. Revolutionary guerilla training is offered by pickup basketball.

mike flugennock said...

Right on, there, about sandlot baseball. When I first got into playing ball as a young kid in the late '60s, most of the baseball I played was of the "pickup" variety on whatever space we could find that was large enough -- sometimes a vacant lot, sometimes a vacant schoolyard baseball diamond -- with as many boys as we could rustle up, sometimes with as little as five or six to a side. There were no umpires, no authority, no parents hanging around; we decided among ourselves whether someone caught the ball cleanly or trapped it, whether or not a ball was hit fair or foul, whether or not somebody made the tag on a runner. It worked for us, and we liked it that way.

Out of all the years I played baseball as a kid, there were only a couple of years where I played on an officially-sanctioned youth-league team, a couple of years of Babe Ruth and pony league ball when I was about twelve or thirteen. I ended up going back to sandlot ball after finding "organized" leagues too smothering and constricting.

I could see as early as my high-school days in the early '70s the shift of youth baseball from autonomous, anarchistic sandlot games to officially-sanctioned, sponsored, smothered-by-parents Little League. Baseball for young boys went from a relaxing summer afternoon's pleasure to a way for middle-aged guys to live out their fantasies of being Earl Weaver, an all-consuming passion for parents who seemed to think the fate of civilization itself depended on whether or not their sons' teams won that day.

This is why, in high school, in terms of playing sports for pleasure, my focus shifted from baseball to basketball. Pickup basketball back then began to take the place of sandlot baseball as the proletarian sport of choice; I played intruamural ball for a year in high school, but found even that too heavily regimented and constricting. Like sandlot baseball when I was a young boy, pickup basketball in high school and college was pure pleasure, something wonderfully autonomous and anarchistic -- no coaches, no referees, no authority, just six or eight guys deciding among themselves whether or not someone threw an elbow, double dribbled, walked with the ball or stepped out of bounds. It worked for us, and we liked it that way.