Thursday, February 09, 2006

Frozen Ropes

If healthy, Barry Bonds is poised to become baseball’s all-time home run king some time during the coming season.

Bonds, who enters the season with 708 career home runs, has received a free pass from the lords of baseball despite his obvious use of steroids.  To make matters worse, he figures to be feted throughout the season as he closes in on Babe Ruth (714) and Henry Aaron (755).

If and when he does pass Aaron, Bonds’ “accomplishment” will be the most tainted record in the history of the game.  I only hope that when the day arrives and his family and friends are gathered in the stands to watch and rejoice that Bonds remembers to invite Mark MacGwire and Raphael Palmeiro to the game.  No two players did more to take the steroids spotlight off him.

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NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is unlikely to be one of Bud Selig’s invitees should Bonds break the record.

Tagliabue was quoted the other day as labeling baseball as exciting as standing in line at a supermarket checkout.  He later backpedaled and claimed he was referring to the time he was forced to play right field for his law firm’s softball team.  Right, Commissioner.

I am not about to get into the age-old argument between fans of baseball and football over which sport is better.  Suffice it to say that other than fans in the two Super Bowl cities (Pittsburgh and Seattle this year), in what other sport would you have the majority of the country more interested in reviewing videos of the commercials from the championship game than from the game itself…every year!?

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Until last season’s magic ride, most of us didn’t know much about Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams.  Williams is credited with building the World Series champs by resisting orthodoxy, beginning with hiring Ozzie Guillen as his manager despite the fact that Guillen had no previous experience as a skipper.  Williams is also considered a shrewd judge of baseball talent and of personalities.

As it turns out Williams had more than a cup of coffee in the majors himself playing six years with the White Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays and Expos before his playing days ended in 1991 when he was released at age 27.  It all began rather promisingly in 1987 when Williams appeared in 116 games with the Sox, batting .281, slugging 11 home runs and batting in 50.  From there it was all downhill, however, as he bounced around to three different clubs in short order.  Williams concluded his career with a lifetime batting average of .218.

Clearly, you don’t need a good scorecard of your own to figure out who the players are.


George S said...

I enjoy both football and baseball, but at the end of the day baseball gets my vote as the better sport (major league level). Why?

You have to be able to watch football to be a fan of football. That's why it was not very popular until the advent of TV. Without the chance to see it, there would be few fans. Not many follow the game for the stats or the title chase itself.
Baseball, on the other hand, can be passionately followed by fans even when they have nothing but a newspaper boxscore or a radio broadcast to go by. A strange quality for a 'spectator' sport.

A baseball season is like going into a dark room and slowly making things out as your eyes adjust. Over time you can start to see things, but you can't rush it. Eventually, all is visible and clear.
Football is more like seeing the same room using a flashing strobe light. Intense, sensory and rapid, but you don't need to focus to enjoy it.

Lastly, in my opinion, it's easier for the average person to identify with a baseball player ($$ notwithstanding). They are physically more diverse and close to normal. They can be seen as real people. The NFL (and NBA) have physical specimens that are beyond most fans' ability to reconcile with everyday experience. You just don't see 6'9" 340-lb people very often, or even 5'11" 240 lb people with 1% body fat. At least not where I live, work or hang out. In that sense they are never actually 'real' people. (Football players are not helped by having to wear helmets, darth vader visors, and other gear)

Apples and Oranges.

Tom Goodman said...

For me the differences include those you point out and one other: everything about baseball, the stance of a batter, the windup of a pitcher, a player making an over-the-shoulder catch deep in centerfield, can be reconstructed in the mind's eye over and over again. That can never be done in football, which is ephemeral and, ultimately, does not endure.