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Pastime Mere Fun and Games

Brett Abel@brettsabelContributor IMay 17, 2009

MILWAUKEE - SEPTEMBER 29: Italian Sausage,Hot Dog,Chorizo,Polish Sausage and Bratwurst get ready for the Sausage Race during the game between the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers on September 29, 2007 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Padres 4-3 in 11 innings. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Originally written for AccentAdvocate.com.

Lots of people complain about what is shown on ESPN and argue what is and is not a sport.

Every time the same competitions come up in these debates—cheerleading, poker, Scrabble, and the spelling bee.

But what about baseball?

America’s pastime needs to be thrown in these conversations.

When looking at the other major sports—football, basketball, soccer and hockey—and comparing baseball to them, baseball lacks what makes the others fun, interesting and a sport.

These other major team sports have their players constantly in motion, in battle, and in competition.

Hockey and soccer matches go on non-stop for 20- and 45-minute periods, respectively, while basketball games take some breaks for timeouts and few play stoppages.

Football takes the most game breaks, usually taking time after each play to huddle and call the next play.

But baseball drags on forever. Enduring the pitcher taking his time to compose himself before a pitch, and waiting for the batter to be comfortable in the box, can take a lot of extra time.

Furthermore, it points out one of the biggest flaws in the “sport.”

While most team sports are played as one unit—five-against-five to put the ball in the hoop—baseball changes its competitive ratio from the pitcher versus the batter to the batter versus the rest of the defenders and it goes on from there if he is able to reach first base, instead of just nine-on-nine.

This game is so unbalanced and off-the-wall it is a wonder how it came to be so popular in the first place.

But the athleticism to play baseball is what raises the most questions.

In most sports, the players need to be fit, muscular and have at least some endurance.

Even Shaquille O’Neal and the largest linemen on the football field need to be able to run up and down the court or field.

But baseball stars like Barry Bonds, Prince Fielder, and C.C. Sabathia are huge, with Sabathia, a pitcher, weighing in at 290 pounds.

Given, there are some speedsters and natural athletes on the baseball diamond—Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford and Willie Mays—but they are not great athletes because they play baseball, they are great athletes who happen to play baseball.

And what made the game fun to watch has caused its greatest controversy.

The home run races that had San Francisco’s greatest taboo, Bonds, chasing Henry Aaron’s all-time homer mark a couple years ago, and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s competing to break the single-season home run record that rejuvenated baseball in 1998 are both tainted.

All three players have been connected to steroids and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

And just as it looked like the PED issue was behind the game, two of its biggest names today—Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez—are found to have also been users.

The game has just become a mockery of itself.

Bonds, who is the all-time home run leader, and Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, have been named by journalists and federal prosecutors to be steroid users, but they continue to hold their records.

Why? Because baseball is just a kid’s game that has tried its hand at becoming a man’s sport, and failed.

But when going to the Oakland Coliseum or AT&T Park for a game, the reason for baseball’s popularity is clear — it has nothing to do with sports, really.

It is the atmosphere of being out in the sun, enjoying some friendly competition and drinking beer that has made baseball what it is.

It is about a game, not sport.

bAbel.

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