WHY BASEBALL SHOULD STILL BE CONSIDERED THE NATIONAL PASTIME (Sorry, Football)

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The tools of what I consider to be the greatest game in the word. Photo courtesy of littlerockchristian.com

A LOOK AT THE CONTINUED APPEAL THAT BASEBALL HAS, IN LIGHT OF THE MAJOR LEAGUES BEGINNING THEIR SEASON

 

I know, I know…

The bulk of Americans haven’t seen baseball as relevant for quite a while, as football – the high school and college kind as well as the NFL – has been considered this nation’s top spectator sport for several decades, and especially this century.

I’ve heard all the negative comments about baseball:

“It’s too boring!”

“All they do is stand around!”

“Why should I spend so much money on a glove and a bat (true, they don’t come cheap)?”

“You make more money in the NFL and the NBA!”

“Baseball’s just too stuck in the past!”

As someone who has had a fondness of baseball and has considered it my favorite sport for four-fifths of my life, I do see the point of those who find the sport boring; I get bored anytime I watch a game, particularly a little league game, where the pitchers aren’t able to throw strikes, ten runs are scored every inning on both sides, and no one’s hit the ball.

However…

There are reasons why baseball (and softball) still holds the number one place in my heart – and this coming from a guy who loves college football and who’s been a passionate fan of the team of my alma mater, UCLA, for roughly 35 years.

Let me list some of the factors as to why baseball still matters and should continue to be called the National Pastime in my book:

1.  LONGER CAREERS

The average career of an NFL player:  Four Years.

The average career of an NBA player:  About the same as his NFL counterpart.

The average career of a Major League Baseball player:  7-10 years.

Which leads us to the reason why that is so…

2.  HEALTH AND SAFETY

The issues that NFL players have had with concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, have been well documented, as has been the tragedies of former stars such as Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Andre Waters committing suicide due to the condition’s effects.

Simply put, baseball doesn’t have those issues as even the catcher, who experiences the most trauma of any position with foul tips and collisions, doesn’t get his head and body knocked around hundreds of times per game like a football player does.

3.  MONEY

Minimum salary of an MLB player:  $507,000

Minimum salary of an NFL player in 2015 (rookie): $435,000

This coming season it will be $450,000.

Which is still less than a rookie baseball player just up from the minors.

And in addition to that, the average salary of an NFL player – $2.11 million – is roughly half that of his Major League counterpart.

So in a nutshell…

Baseball players make more money.

 

 

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A Japanese player scoring a run in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Photo courtesy of espn.go.com

 

4. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Sportscaster Bob Costas put it perfectly in Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary “Baseball” when he said,

“What is Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar)’s final point total? And what was Wilt (Chamberlin)’s when Kareem passed it? What is Walter Payton’s final yardage total? And what was Jim Brown’s when Walter passed it? 

Even the most fervent football or basketball fan doesn’t know.

But the casual baseball fan knows that 1941 was the year of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams’ .406, and that 1947 was the year of Jackie Robinson…”

I’d even venture that the rabid, die-hard women’s softball fan wouldn’t know who the all-time leaders in hits, home runs,  batting average, and strikeouts are.

But the casual baseball fan knows that Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits, Ty Cobb’s .367 average, and Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs are the all-time records in those categories.

Which leads us to this final factor of why baseball should still be considered #1…

5.  THE CHARM OF THE GAME

There’s a reason why despite it’s supposed irrelevance, the number of fans attending baseball games are at an all-time high at all levels, at the college and the minor league levels as well as in “The Show”.

Largely of the history involved in it, but also because it has a charm – akin to a longtime family heirloom that has been passed down generations, or a heavy quilt that you had for most of your life that you like to wrap yourself up in on a cold night because it’s so comfortable – that football and basketball simply cannot match.

Putting it another way:

When Opening Day comes around for the MLB season, I get a good, holiday-like feeling that I don’t get for the openings of football or basketball as in those sports, they don’t do anything special to mark the occasion that baseball does.

Maybe I’m a little naive, a bit too nostalgic for the past, but…

My sentiments for baseball haven’t changed since I first followed the game in the mid-1970s.

And I don’t see it changing, even after I’m dead and cremated.

 

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What former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda called “Blue Heaven On Earth” – Dodger Stadium, a place where I have been over fifty times, attending 50 Dodger games over nearly forty years. Photo courtesy of salesianalumni.com

 

 

 

 

The State of Los Angeles Sports in 2014 (according to me): Part 2

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Now that the state of Los Angeles Sports has been covered on the gridiron, let’s talk about how this town is faring in the other athletic endeavors:

*  I think everyone will agree with me when I say that you can’t discuss the current state of sports in Southern California and not have the two teams in the National Basketball Association that call this region home – the Lakers and the Clippers – be not only prominent in the conversation, but have top priority.

I’m positive that NBA fans outside of L.A. have been dancing with glee over the misfortunes of one of the two iconic teams in pro hoops; I know, as sure as I’m writing this, that fans in the Bay Area and everywhere else have been shouting for the past year or two:

“The Lakers suck! And it’s about time!”

While laughing their heads off at the team’s ineptitude as their 27-55 mark last season was the Lakers’ worst in franchise history, dating back over 65 years!

It hurts me to say this as his career is arguably the best in L.A. sports history, but if Kobe Bryant thinks that he will win another NBA championship in the next two years, he is disillusioned.

Sure, acquiring Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer and re-signing Nick Young will help some,  but as far as being contenders for the NBA Finals in 2015, well…

If they reach the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed, that would be a most tremendous feat.

I said this while writing on Los Angeles Sports Hub.com, and I’ll state it again:

These Lakers do not need to reload – THEY NEED TO REBUILD.

This purple-and gold-clad bunch needs to blow things up (which they can’t really do as Kobe is signed for the next two years) and start from scratch with high first round picks.

Which means in the proverbial short-term-pain-long-term-gain scenario, they need to stink for a couple of years while they rebuild the team.

* Meanwhile, across the hall at Staples Center…

I have been waiting roughly  30 years for the Clippers to not only become relevant, but become among the NBA’s best.

Led by perhaps the best twosome in the league – Blake Griffin and my personal favorite, Chris Paul – these Clippers have clearly taken over L.A., particularly when it comes to head-to-head battles with the Lakers as their record against them these past two years is 7-1, one of those wins being the worst loss that the Lakers have ever had; 142-94 on March 6.

Everything was going great with this Clipper ship!

Then owner Donald Sterling had to open his big, bigoted mouth when an audio tape, which caught him saying that he didn’t want African Americans at Clipper games, was leaked out.

All Hades broke loose immediately after that, as visions of players fleeing the team and empty seats at Staples due to boycotts danced in everyone’s heads.

Not to mention the Clippers losing millions of dollars because of sponsors abandoning ship, which quite a few of them did.

Thanks to new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver coming through, being a hero in banning Sterling from the league for life, those visions are unlikely to come to pass as the Clippers will pretty much main intact and continue as a real contender.

Silver has more or less ordered Sterling to sell the team, which he is currently fighting tooth and nail in the courts.

This soap opera will no doubt further unfold going forward…

*  Switching gears to my favorite sport, the sport where I have been involved with as a fan, a player, and a coach for over 35 years: Baseball…

I’m concerned about the team in which I was a fan of for the bulk of my life, the team in which my fandom was passed down from my beloved grandparents.

Sure the Dodgers, after being nine and a half games out of first place a few weeks ago, are in a tie for the National League West lead and will be in a rabid dogfight with their rival San Francisco Giants from here on out.

Sure, they are the owners of two no-hitters this season, one of them being an epic masterpiece by all-universe pitcher Clayton Kershaw on June 18.

And sure, their team ERA and runs scored are among the tops in the league.

BUT…

Having four front line outfielders for three spots is never a good situation as Matt Kemp – who’s once again having a somewhat disappointing year after that monster 2011 of his – hasn’t officially demanded a trade, but has said that he wouldn’t be opposed to one if he doesn’t play everyday in center field; he currently resides in left.

Physically speaking, Hanley Ramirez is playing on shoestring and gum as the shortstop has been a walking MASH unit, getting knocked out of his last game by a pitch on his forearm, which will force him to – once again – miss a few games.

And while their 3.14 earned run average among the starters is the best in Major League Baseball, after Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun Jin Ryu the rotation falls off deeply, with Dan Haren pitching like Charlie Brown of late.

The worst thing of all about these Dodgers is the fact that because of the uncompromising demands by both Time Warner Cable and Direct TV, 70% of the Los Angeles area is unable to watch the Dodgers on TV.

 

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Which is not a problem in the slightest to L.A’s Orange County neighbors, the American League’s Angels, as all they have done is post the second best record in baseball.

Many reasons factor in this surge, including 30 comeback wins, but the number one reason is – by a long way – their 22-year old center fielder.

In his third full season in “The Show”, Mike Trout has clearly taken over the mantle as the best player in baseball.

Let me count the ways:

– Two straight second place finishes in the MVP voting; if not for the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, he would have won.

– 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases in 2012, the youngest ever to reach the 30-30 club as well as the first in MLB history to hit that many homers, steal that many bases, and score at least 125 runs (129) in a single season.

– Winner of this year’s All-Star Game MVP award with his double and triple in three at-bats, leading the American League to victory.

And on top of everything else, Trout has looks right out of central casting that can be considered on a par with Brad Pitt, a young Mickey Mantle, and an Eagle Scout; he just looks like a ballplayer.

With his team, like their blue-clad neighbors up north, posed for a brawl with their Bay Area rivals, the Oakland Athletics, for the A.L. West title.

People have been clamoring for a Freeway World Series for decades, and it looks like this is the best chance at one – if things work out.

* As for the sport that originated from Canada…

L.A.’s National Hockey League entry, the Kings, haven’t done much at all.

They have merely won two of the last three Stanley Cups, including this year’s as they beat the New York Rangers in the Finals, winning the Cup in overtime in Game 5.

Which has cemented them as the rulers of the Southern California sports world.

While that overtime triumph was an obvious highlight, it was one of two in my book this year regarding that black-and-silver squad as their seven-game Western Conference semi-finals against their Orange County rival Anaheim Ducks was, to put it plainly, epic.

And once and for all settled the question of who owns the Los Angeles area in hockey.

As well as leading me to officially state this:

This state of sports in Los Angeles, as least for the time being, is a good one.

Time will tell whether that distinction will continue, but for now…

Fans of the ten major college and pro teams (including the two Major League Soccer teams, the Galaxy and Chivas USA) that play their home games in this part of the country can feel good about themselves.

 

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INTRODUCING…ME

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Hello,

Just a few words about myself – don’t worry, I won’t ramble. I’ll do my best to keep it as concise as possible…

My name is Derek Hart. I’m an African American male in my mid-40s who has high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, which is known as part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Since age six, because I’m high functioning I have been mainstreamed into the general neurotypical (non-disabled) population. But that does not mean that I haven’t socially struggled, because I have; very much so.

I am currently writing a book called “MY ASPIE LIFE: Living With Asperger’s Syndrome in a Neurotypical World”, which you can call a memoir of, among other things, everything I went through growing up and in my adult life; the rejections and struggles I have had because of this condition.

The book, which I plan to self publish, will have 11 chapters and an epilogue. I have finished chapter nine and will begin corrections and rewrites very soon, as my target date for having “MY ASPIE LIFE” finished and published is Summer 2015

I will also post sports analyses, as I am a UCLA graduate who has been a loyal and dedicated member of Bruin Nation and a strong fan of the UCLA football team (and other Bruin teams) for roughly 30 years.

For the past six years, I have covered the Bruins on the gridiron – and other venues – for sites like Bleacher Report.com and most recently L.A. Sports Hub.com., which I was on for five years, serving as the official UCLA correspondent and as editor-in-chief during 2010 and 2011.

I will likely write posts on other teams such as the Dodgers, which I have been a fan of for most of my life and which was passed down to me from my grandparents.

I have also written various articles and essays for Hubpages.com, and currently post pieces on the writing site Triond.com, which I have been involved with since 2008.

After writing on other blogs – essentially working for someone else – for six years, this, I feel, is my golden opportunity for me to at last be free to write what I want, when I want, in whichever style I want.

In other words, express my freedom, which what I really need in this stage of my life as I’m in a place where if I want to “follow my dreams”, I need to do so now.

To say that I am very much looking forward to writing on my own blog and watching it grow is an understatement.

I hope you read and like what I have to say.

God Bless…