I completely understand that this will be a most unpopular position I am taking, being that the National Football League is this country’s most popular spectator sports enterprise and all.
Indeed, I can hear the “You must be out of your mind!” and “Baseball’s so boring!” and “You’re such a wimp!” rants now.
Before I’m summarily dismissed as some out-of touch wuss, however, let me say this…
Just because it’s my opinion that baseball is better than football and is still the national pastime does NOT mean that I don’t like the pigskin game, or the battles on the gridiron that are played out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday around this time (as well as Thursday and Monday nowadays).
In fact, I consider the UCLA Bruins football squad my favorite team in all of sports, as I have been attending their games at the Rose Bowl for over 25 years, dating back to my days as a UCLA student.
However, there are quite a few reasons why the game played on the diamond, in the long run, is better than the game played on the gridiron.
Here are ten of those reasons that I think football fans will be forced to acknowledge if not agree with, starting with this…
1. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYERS HAVE – ON AVERAGE – A LONGER CAREER THAN NFL PLAYERS
The average time an athlete has in MLB is seven to ten years, while his NFL counterpart’s tenure in that league averages out to a mere four seasons due to a MUCH higher chance and certainty of injury – which brings us to…
2. LESS CHANCE OF DEBILITATING INJURIES (concussions, destroyed ACLs and cartilages) IN BASEBALL
This is especially the case when it comes down to head injuries that curtail a player’s quality of life years after retirement; how many MLB players have gone the way of guys like Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, NFL stars who after they killed themselves were found that their brains were permanently affected by all the collisions they endured on the field?
I’ll bet anything that there are far fewer baseball players who fit into that tragic category.
3. AVERAGE LIFE SPAN OF AN NFL PLAYER: 55 YEARS OLD
As opposed to 75 for the average American male, which ties into numbers 1 and 2 in that the debilitating and crippling injuries definitely take their toll later in life.
I really don’t think its the same for baseball, even for pitchers who had Tommy John surgery for blown ligaments in their elbows.
4. CTE – CHRONIC TRAUMATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY – IS A LOT MORE COMMON IN THE NFL THAN IN MLB
Also known as Dementia, the instances of NFL players suffering and ultimately dying from this disease are well documented.
Among CTE’s symptoms are memory loss, depression, a change in behavior for the worse, and loss of coordination.
Along with Seau and Duerson, at the end of 2012 it was found that 39 former players were found with this disease after their untimely deaths, including ex-Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster and ex-Atlanta Falcon Ray Easterling.
Meanwhile, former Cincinnati Reds catcher Ryan Freel was the first MLB player to be diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2012.
Which makes the score thus:
National Football League – 39 (and counting),
Major League Baseball – 1
5. FEWER REPORTED INSTANCES OF WOMAN OR CHILD BEATING IN MLB
To put it another way, when was the last time you heard of a Major League Baseball star beating his wife or his child – besides Ty Cobb, of course.
However, you would have had to have lived under a rock on Mars to not have heard about the issues that Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Jonathan Dwyer are facing.
6. BASEBALL PLAYERS EARN MORE MONEY THAN FOOTBALL PLAYERS
Minimum salary of an NFL player: $420,000
Minimum salary of an MLB player: $500,000
Average NFL salary: $1.9 million
Average MLB salary: $3.3 million
Pretty self-explanatory, I believe.
Especially when you consider the physical risks that have been covered in this post.
7. LABOR RELATIONS BETWEEN PLAYERS AND OWNERS MUCH MORE PEACEFUL IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Last work stoppage in MLB: 1994
Via a player’s strike that wiped out the World Series and wasn’t resolved until mid-April 1995 when a judge – Sonia Sotomayor, who would go on to the Supreme Court – ruled that the owners were engaging in unfair labor practices.
Last work stoppage in the NFL: 2011
Via a owner-induced lockout that lasted 136 days, the longest in league history.
8. FOOTBALL PLAYERS FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO THE PROS DROPPING DEAD AFTER PRACTICES AND GAMES. NOT SO MUCH IN BASEBALL.
The most notable instance of this was the Minnesota Vikings’ Korey Stringer, who died during training camp in 2001.
There have been quite a few others passing away on the gridiron before and since then, due to factors such as undiagnosed defective hearts – which meant that they shouldn’t have been playing.
Meanwhile, I haven’t heard of anyone dying on the diamond, at least not nearly as often.
9. HISTORY IS MORE IMPORTANT TO THE BASEBALL FAN THAN TO THE FOOTBALL FAN
As a perfect analogy of this, let me ask a few questions, all having to do with the top records in the NFL’s record books…
– What is Jerry Rice’s final career touchdown total? And what was Emmitt Smith’s when Rice passed him?
– What is Emmitt Smith’s final career rushing yardage total? And what was Walter Payton’s when Smith passed him?
– What is Brett Favre’ final career passing yardage total? And what was Dan Marino’s when Favre passed him?
– Who broke the NFL’s color barrier, what team did he play for, and when did he do it?
If you asked the die-hard football fan these questions, the fan who spends every hour of his Sundays either watching the NFL at home or at his local sports bar, owns ten jerseys of his favorite team, bets good sums of none on such team, and spends the wary part of the weeks in a deep funk if his team loses, guess what?
Odds are, he wouldn’t know!
And more importantly, he wouldn’t care!
The casual baseball fan, the one who doesn’t keep track of all 162 games that his team plays, goes to maybe one game a year, and is only a fanatic when his team is in the World Series, knows that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs.
He knows that Henry Aaron broke that mark in 1974 and ended up with 755 homers.
He knows that Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games, which stands as the record to this day.
He knows that Ted Williams was the last man to hit .400 in a season when he batted .406 in 1941.
He knows that the Boston Red Sox went 86 years between World Series titles.
And he definitely knows that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
That makes it fairly clear that football, despite the NFL’s status as the #1 pro sports league in the U.S. and despite their championship game, the Super Bowl, being the most-watched TV show, still doesn’t have a hold in the fabric of American society the way that baseball does.
Last but not least…
10. THERE IS NO CLOCK IN BASEBALL, WHICH MEANS THAT NO MATTER HOW FAR BEHIND A TEAM IS DURING A GAME, A COMEBACK IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE
Unlike in football, where if it’s one or two minutes left in game that is a blowout, coaches on both sides are expected to clear their benches and play their scrubs because there is no chance for a comeback due to lack of time.
Meanwhile, in baseball you have to get 27 outs (or 21 in softball’s case).
You can’t just take a knee and kill the clock.
A perfect example of this was during a pick-up softball game which I was personally involved in a few years ago, when the team I was playing on was winning by 20 runs in the ninth and last inning. I believe there were two outs before something incredibly devastating happened…
The other team got hit after hit after hit and scored run after run after run.
Roughly 20 minutes later we actually found ourselves on the losing end of the contest!
Which illustrates and proves once and for all Yogi Berra’s time-honored cliche of how “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”.
As was said, I don’t expect – at all – for probably the majority of football fans out there to agree with me on these convictions of mine.
I suppose I’m just old school that way.
But I do hope that I have – at the very least – triggered some things to think about among you disciples of the gridiron as the season hits its quarter point…