Game or Lame: Is Baseball America’s Greatest Sport?

It’s an argument for the ages as baseball naysayer James Breakwell riles up our bat-happy humor editor, Andy Simmons.

baseball is not a sportBaseball Is a Bore
By James Breakwell

Baseball is not a sport.

I classify it as a low-impact recreational activity like Pilates or yoga. It takes more athletic ability to work at the post office than it does to start for the Mets. I’m not saying everyone can make it in the big leagues. It takes a set of highly specialized skills to play baseball. The same could be said of being an accountant. Neither deserves to be televised.

There’s a simple test to determine if an activity rises to the level of a sport: Can you do it while chewing tobacco? By this objective measurement, baseball fails, but cheerleading passes. Everyone remembers that girl on the high school spirit squad who choked on Skoal and was subsequently crushed to death by a crumbling human pyramid. Baseball players face no such danger since the most rigorous activity they perform is the slow jog from the spot where they stand still to the spot where they sit. Their game is one of long periods of inaction followed by short, intense periods of somewhat less inaction. Yes, they sometimes swing a bat or catch a ball, but only after every other form of stalling is exhausted. A baseball game is the filibuster of the athletic world.

Baseball is so physically undemanding that teams often play two games in a row on the same day. While players in specific positions, like the pitcher and the batboy, might get a real workout, everybody else goes into the second game feeling like they just woke up from a refreshing nap. If a football team played two games on the same day, the fatality rate would be about 98 percent.

And unlike in football, in baseball, it’s nearly impossible to get injured in a game. That hasn’t stopped players from hurting themselves in off-the-field incidents, such as playing Guitar Hero (Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya suffered inflammation in his throwing arm from playing the game) and sneezing (former Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa sneezed so hard that he injured a ligament in his lower back), proving once and for all that video games and allergies are more hazardous than playing baseball at the highest level.

The only thing more fragile than a baseball player is his ego. Players constantly hurt each other’s feelings by breaking unwritten rules, which exist solely to give them an excuse to throw temper tantrums. A few seasons ago, a pitcher ranted to the media that an opponent disrespected him by stepping on the pitcher’s mound. The spat over who walked on what clump of dirt was exponentially more exciting than the game itself and made headlines in the baseball press for the next year and a half.

Apologists argue that all these flaws are mitigated by baseball’s long and storied history, which can be traced back to at least the 1800s. When people break out the tradition argument, what they’re really saying is that baseball is unexciting, but that’s OK because it’s been unexciting for a really, really long time.

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—from James Breakwell’s blog,

Game or Lame?
James Bennett for Reader’s Digest

You Are Out, Sir!
By Andy Simmons

Not only is baseball the greatest sport in America, it’s our national pastime! Other than watching cat videos, what else has pastime status? Nothing, and here’s why: The game is slow. And that’s a good thing. We’re an ambling nation; we take our time and make sure things get done right, and here’s a sport that lets its players get on base by walking. Baseball is timeless because there is no artificial timepiece dictating its pace. No one shamefully sits on the ball to run out the clock (as they do in other sports that shall go nameless), because there is no clock. Both teams get 27 outs to do with what they can. And if they need a few more, no problem. It’s fair. It’s, dare I say … sporting!

To all you speed freaks (“Why can’t they move things along?!”) I ask, What’s your hurry? (“I have to go home and watch The Voice!”) Oh, please, it’s summer. Grab a bleacher seat and relax. Look up once in a while to make sure a ball doesn’t have your number. And if it does, catch it! What other sport involves its fans like that? Above all, baseball is deliberate—it’s a thinking person’s game. It’s all about strategy, and surprise. The tension builds slowly, men get on base, the manager changes pitchers, the inning stretches to an anxious crescendo. Like a Stephen King novel, nothing happens, nothing happens, then … wham! Cujo eats you. And Prince Fielder launches one into the upper deck.

Football, on the other hand, as pundit George Will observed, is “violence punctuated by committee meetings.” It’s an anger-management class gone awry. Games are “won in the trenches” between 350-pound offensive and defensive linemen. In other words, the fattest team wins. I can’t relate to people who are bigger than my car, but when I watch baseball, I feel like one of the guys. In fact, that’s the charm of the sport. The players look like me. They wear pants. So do I! Boston Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia is five feet nine inches, same height as me. Dustin and I can almost be mistaken for twins, except I can’t hit a 95 mph fastball like he can. I could strike out with the best of them, but I couldn’t hit like them. I’d be too busy digging a foxhole in the batter’s box and wailing to the umpire, “Make that pitcher stop throwing at me!”

That’s because baseball players possess something I don’t: reflexes. Sure, most athletes have better reflexes than me, including chess masters. But consider what a batter faces: some guy, who he trusts is wearing his contact lenses and can see the plate, launching a hard ball—I mean, a really hard ball—in his direction a whole lot faster than the speed limit on the Interstate. He has about four-tenths of a second to decide whether to swing, lay off the pitch, or faint. Should he make contact, that ball will carom off his bat at 100-plus mph. The fielder has four-tenths of a second to react and not swallow his chaw. (BTW, I have yet to see the Heimlich maneuver performed on a diving shortstop.)

But the ball won’t carom off my bat. While I might be able to sink a basket or run a few inches for my life after catching a football, I will never in a million years make contact with a thrown baseball. Know who else can’t hit? Michael Jordan. Remember when he quit basketball to become one of the Boys of Summer? The greatest athlete, nay, the greatest sportsman of the past eon, was a miserable failure. He never got out of the minor leagues! And when he played, he did what all those football and basketball players do but Breakwell says baseball players don’t—he sweated. Lots. Whiffing at fat curveballs all day will do that to a body. ’Nuff said.


Who has the better argument? Which side do you agree with? Comment away.

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