What's the Most American Sport?

I'll exercise my oh-so-American First Amendment right, Hampton. Has football been known for nearly 100 years as "America's Pastime"? Did former U.S. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes give football its own special antitrust exemption because it was a series of exhibitions, rather than a business? Is the quintessence of Americana, as you so succinctly put it, Mom, apple pie, and football?

No on all counts. Baseball is the thing, and from its history to its tirelessness to its egalitarianism, it is the most American of sports.

First of all, baseball's been around for more than 150 years, and the MLB started in 1876 (or about 32 years before the Cubs won their last World Series). It was the first sport to move a marquee franchise to the West Coast (the Dodgers and Giants) and the first league to implement full-scale racial integration. It has a pedigree that even football can't match—to wit, there have been 46 Super Bowls and 107 World Series.

Baseball also captures a key American value: working until the job is done, no matter how long it takes. Is it truly American to simply go home when the clock runs out, as in football and basketball? What are we, Greeks? Here in AMERICA, we play all nine innings, all 27 outs, and we'll gladly go to extra innings if it means getting the job done right. The clock never runs out in baseball, and there's something very "Mom and apple pie" about that.

Baseball's also a sport for people of all body types, from David Eckstein to Pablo Sandoval to the literally one-handed Jim Abbott. Sure, the NFL had Tom Dempsey and his clubfoot, but baseball had ol' one arm himself, Pete Gray. No matter how you slice it, baseball is more inclusive a sport.

All that's noise, though, compared to the real reason. Football, with its sideline "cheer-babes," overcommercialization, Bud Light ads, heavy hitting and heavier bragging, may well be what American is. But baseball, with its crisp summer evenings and pristine visages occasionally interrupted by the refreshing crack of bat on ball, is the America we'd like to be.

Is there a sport out there we missed, Patrick? Or are we on the right American track?

–Jake

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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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