After months of misery, football season officially came to an end last weekend, and baseball season has taken its place. This got me thinking about all the reasons baseball is a better sport than football. I could provide hundreds of reasons that baseball is better, but in the interest of my time and your sanity, I decided to condense it down to 15 reasons that baseball is better than football. Enjoy, and happy baseball season.
1. The History
Baseball has more reverence for history than any other sport, including football. If you asked an average football fan for some of the best football players of the 1920’s, they probably wouldn’t have many names to give you. On the other hand, if you asked a typical baseball fan the same questions, they would have little trouble giving names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Walter Johnson, and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
The legacies of hall of fame players are well kept in baseball. Decades after their retirements and even death, the names of great ballplayers are known and loved.
In addition, baseball has a greater appreciation for defining moments in history. Events like, Babe Ruth’s called shot, Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard Around the World, “The Catch” by Willie Mays, Carlton Fisk waving the homerun fair, Kirk Gibson’s walk off homerun in the world series, and Bill Buckner’s muffed ground ball live in the minds of every baseball fan.
2. The Absence of Time
Football, like nearly all sports, is governed by time restrictions. The game changes as a result of the clock, and towards the end of the game, the winning team can simply take a knee and prevent their opponents from even getting an opportunity. You can’t take a knee in baseball. No matter what, the losing team will get its nine at-bats. As the great Earl Weaver once said, “In baseball, you can’t kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why this is the greatest game.”
3. The Action Within Inaction
I often hear people say things like, “Baseball moves too slow,” or “Baseball is a boring sport to watch.” Honestly, I feel bad for those people, because I know that they don’t truly understand the game. They have this beautiful thing in front of them, yet they are completely blind to its wondrousness. Between every pitch, when a non-fan thinks nothing is happening, an incredible amount of thinking is being done. The pitcher and catcher are considering the batter, his scouting report and tendencies, his last at bat, and the pitches he has seen so far in the current at bat; they are considering the man on deck and the man after him; they are considering the base runners, their speed, their tendencies, the tendencies of the coaches, the pitcher’s ability to hold runners on, and the strength of the catcher’s arm. Every other person on the field has their own thought process and are making little adjustments that the average fan doesn’t notice. An incomparable amount of data is processed by the mind of a baseball player every second. Even when the play stops, the action continues underneath the surface. Baseball is a chess match, a physiological duel, and a thinking man’s game. That’s part of what makes it so amazing.
4. The Ballpark
Fenway Park. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Ballparks have character, something football stadiums lack. Each baseball stadium is unique and different. They almost have personalities. Every field has its own dimensions that affect the game in different ways. Safeco Field doesn’t play like Fenway Park. The Ballpark in Arlington won’t play the same way as Marlins Ballpark. There is nothing unique about a 120 yard football field; every field is identical, bland, and faceless. The difference goes beyond the field itself. Most football stadiums are imposing concrete monstrosities. On the other hand, there is something homey, something intimate, and something poetic, about a baseball stadium. They often have brick facades and warm, welcoming entrances. Going to a ballpark provides a better experience than going to a football stadium.
5. A Continuous Game
In football, the play stops for an extended period three times every game. It just stops. Football also has timeouts and challenges which stop the game for a time. During these breaks, fans are forced to sit through halftime shows, marching bands, dance routines, and a plethora of other distractions that do not add anything to the game. On the other hand, baseball does not have these unnecessary pauses. Sure, it has breaks between innings, but even those are filled with action. Pitchers are warming up, infielders are taking ground balls, and outfielders are playing long toss. At least something of relevance is happening during these quick game breaks. The other thing about the lack of breaks in baseball is that it forces players to make adjustments on the go. They don’t get 20 minutes in the middle of the game to sit in front of a chalk board and discuss changes they will make in their strategy. Baseball players have to make those adjustments minute to minute intuitively.
6. The Art
Aspects of baseball have artistic qualities that football lacks. Take, for instance, playing shortstop. In terms of artistic value, football has nothing that can compare with Omar Vizquel playing shortstop. It is beautiful, it is refined, it is graceful, and it is masterful. It is so difficult, yet it is done with such fluidity. Ken GriffeyJr. was unlike any other player during his era, because watching him play was so magnificent. He had the sweetest swing in baseball history, in my opinion, and he played outfield with incredible smoothness. Running into a wall is a pretty rough action, but somehow he made it look easy. Griffey was Picasso. The bat and glove were his brushes and the field was his easel. The artistry and grace of baseball make it much more aesthetically pleasing than spastic flow of football.
Omar Vizquel making a play. Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
7. The Necessary Refinement
One reason I love baseball is because it doesn’t rely on physical ability or makeup like other sports, including football. In football, most positions require you to be extremely fast, large, or strong. Unless you are a kicker or sometimes a quarterback, you aren’t going to have much success without at least one of those three attributes. On the other hand, baseball doesn’t require these physical qualities. Instead, it requires refinement.
Don’t believe me? Take a few of these things into consideration. The all-time leader in hits was 5’11” and weighed 200 pounds and lacked speed. The previous title holder weighed just 175 pounds. The greatest homerun hitter ever to not use steroids was just 6’0, 180. The greatest pure hitter of the 21st century thus far weighed just 170 pounds, and perhaps the most dominant pitcher of the last twenty years, Pedro Martinez, was 5’11” and 195 pounds. These ball players didn’t need to be large, strong, and imposing to succeed in baseball. The game of baseball is filled with normal men who have honed their skills, not guys who look like they have been inflated with bicycle pumps.
All this is not to say that football players do not refine their skills, because they often do. However, the most refined offensive lineman in the world wouldn’t play in the NFL if he weighed 220 pounds. A man can read offenses better than anyone else, but if he is 5’7”, he won’t be playing much middle linebacker in the NFL. You could have the best hands in the world, but without the speed necessary to separate from a cornerback, you will be worthless as a wide receiver.
Baseball is special because it doesn’t keep people out of the game because of their physical attributes.
8. Spring Training
Spring Training is far better to its football counterpart of training camp. To begin with, spring training is held in Arizona and Florida, so you know that it is going to be warm and sunny. This is especially nice for those of us who are from cold weather areas. Next, there are more spring training games than NFL preseason games. There are several games going every day during spring training while there are just a couple per week in the NFL preseason. Finally, the games have a lighter atmosphere in spring training. Instead of packing a big football stadium on a cold night, you can buy cheap ticket to a spring training game and go lay in the grass behind the outfield, grab a hotdog, soak up the sun, and watch the greatest game ever made.
9. The Season
If you are a baseball fan, you will get to watch your team play 162 games every year. If you are a football fan, you get to watch your team play just 16 times. Last time I checked, 162 is better than 16. If your baseball team has a rough game, no problem; they will get another chance tomorrow. If your football team has a bad day, you will have to sit and wait for a week until they get a chance to see them redeem themselves. There is a certain comfort you feel knowing that there is a baseball game nearly every night. As you go throughout the day, you get to constantly look forward to night when you get to put your feet up on the couch and watch baseball. You don’t have that assurance in football. You have to wait an entire week for fulfillment.
The fact that baseball season takes place in the spring and summer also separates itself from football’s fall and winter schedule. To go to a baseball game, you can throw on a t-shirt and hat and head out to sit in the warmth and watch a ballgame as the summer sun sets. Unless you live in a warm climate like Arizona, attending a football game generally includes freezing temperatures and precipitation; not as pleasant of an atmosphere as baseball provides.
10. The Minor Leagues
I love the minor leagues because they give you more baseball. They also give you the chance to observe young players and dream about their potential. In professional football, players who aren’t ready for the NFL level get tucked away on a practice squad where no one gets to see them play. On the other hand, baseball players who aren’t ready for the show get to play in front of fans and prove their worth at six different levels of competition.
11. Its Consistency
Baseball has survived for over 150 years and it has changed little in that span. The game and its rules are basically the same, and there hasn’t been a major alteration in the sport since the 1960’s when the strike zone was changed. The baseball played in Civil War camps is remarkably similar to the game played in major league stadiums all around the country today. In football, the recent rule changes regarding things such as defenseless receivers have caused constant controversy. There are no such problems in baseball.
12. Its Unpredictability
In football, there aren’t a whole lot of upsets. If the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Broncos, it is very unlikely that the Chiefs will win that game. On the other hand, if the Astros play the Tigers, the Astros, despite being the worst team in baseball, will probably win one game in a three game series and may realistically even win two of three games. Even the worst baseball team will always have a real chance of winning any game, while the worst football team is often out of the game before it even starts.
13. The All-Star Game
A packed house to see the MLB All Star Game. Credit: Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports via USA TODAY Sports
The MLB all-star game is a wonderful event. The best players in the game unite to play a great baseball game. On the other hand, the NFL pro bowl is on the verge of being canceled due to the overall lack of effort exhibited in the game. The festivities surrounding the mid-summer classic are superior as well. The homerun derby, the futures game, the fan fest, the celebrity softball game, and the mere fact that there is a sellout crowd in an actual baseball stadium all separate it from the pro bowl.
14. It’s International Growth
Baseball is both played and loved around the world. Hotbeds of talent have arisen throughout Latin America and the Caribbean while Asian countries and even Europe have developed talent as well. Prior to the 2012 season, almost 30 percent of MLB players were born outside the United States. Compare this to the less than 5 percent of foreign born NFL players. Every few years, the World Baseball Classic takes place in which 32 countries around the world compete against each other. The United States, which was the inventor of the game of baseball, probably won’t even win this competition this year. Although this may be seen as embarrassing, I view it as a testament to the global success of this wonderful game. If football attempted to create a World Football Classic, it would essentially be the USA obliterating Canada and perhaps a few European nations. Baseball’s spread around the World proves its superiority.
15. It’s the National Pastime
Despite its globalization, baseball remains our national pastime. Since the days before the Civil War, baseball has been played in fields, streets, and stadiums in America by children and grown men alike. History has told us that America needs baseball. Cheating, gambling, lying, selfishness, and fighting have all failed to dismantle our game. The people love it too much. Baseball has stood firm. Even during World War II, when all the players were in battle, our country improvised and embraced Women’s baseball. The United States needs baseball more than any other sport, and that’s what makes our game so great.
So rejoice, America. Baseball is back.
Baseball is back. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports