Thursday, September 01, 2011

It's A Joke, But I'm Serious

Photo: Tyello, Flickr Creative Commons

I posted a throwaway joke over on Facebook and Twitter yesterday. Tomorrow is the first day of college football, I said. Finally there'll be a sport on TV besides tennis and cycling.

Honestly, I assumed most people wouldn't even get the joke. It's an implied dig at baseball, my favorite sport to hate on. I don't even really hate the sport. I can't watch an entire game. Not enough happens between the bouts of standing around and sitting on the bench to keep my attention but I actually follow the sport pretty closely. I look for results of Atlanta Braves games. I follow stats of individual players. I play in more than one fantasy baseball league. I know what sabermetrics are and I understand why it's weird that Moneyball would be turned into a movie. It's the perfect sport for those who like statistics. It's just a less-than-ideal spectator sport for someone like me.

Another thread of the joke was the tennis and cycling thing. Very few people watch tennis, but I do, mainly because I play. No one watches cycling except me, or at least it seems that way, and I'll be the first to admit that professional cycling (and really any endurance sport) is not a particularly telegenic activity. Even more so than baseball, there are large chunks of the event that don't really matter. Namely, the beginning and middle. Those parts exist just to make the riders tired so the end is more interesting. I'm not actually claiming the sport is more watchable. The joke was that I watch it.

One of the commenters on my Facebook page got the joke and answered in the spirit. A second started debate. I didn't really want to debate this. I enjoy debating. As a kid, my friends and I debated while most boys play wrestled. We brain wrestled. I look forward to those kinds of discussions. It's just not something that I want to start up with someone when I don't know how they react to opposing viewpoints.

So, for the record, here's why I often dismiss (half-jokingly) baseball as a sport.

For me, sport is a continuum and requires intense physical activity in a competitive situation to be considered as such. Gymnastics, marathons, and rugby all fall into this category. They're intensely physical and competitive. Games require skill and/or tactics in a competitive manner, but may not be intensely physical. Billiards, target shooting, and dressage riding are examples. Many sports are games. There's a lot of tactics and skill involved in football. It's both a sport and a game. There are few tactics and relatively little skill in running the 100 m dash. I'm not saying there are no skills required -- those guys do have technique and stuff to learn to get better -- but 99.9% of their result is from physical ability and fitness.

A Venn diagram would be a great representation of this except that it doesn't take into account scale. No one can realistically claim that baseball is as physically demanding as football, basketball, or swimming. It's not. The guy who's the most physically exhausted at the end of the night is the starting pitcher and it's just his one arm. No one's breaking a sweat unless the weather is hot enough to cause the fans to sweat with them. It's a sport, but not to the extent that football is (and football is less of a sport than rugby, which provides almost no break in the action outside of halftime). Golf barely requires any display of physical prowess outside of the drive, although I will say that pro golfers may be more athletes that AL pitchers. They have to walk a lot more than American League pitchers, and, John Daly aside, none them can get away with being as fat as this guy.

What I find funny is that I in no way consider this an insult to baseball. I can't make those pitches. I can't make those catches. I couldn't even hit an "easy" pitch thrown by a #4 starting pitcher accidentally left hanging over the plate unless I got really lucky. There's a lot of skill involved there. There's an incredible amount of skill involved in golf. Golf is a huge waste of resources compared to other sports and game and may be mildly unethical, but that's another conversation.

As for baseball and sports, I like categorizing things. I need more precision to my categories than "things people do." Get over it.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I don't care enough about sports to debate.