Baseball has dominated the sporting industry in the United States since the 19th Century, and is rapidly approaching the 170th anniversary of its first game on American soil. Today, there are 30 baseball stadiums currently operating under Major-League Baseball (MLB) in the United States, with each belonging to one of the 15 American-League or 15 National-League MLB baseball teams. In 1869, the first professional baseball team in the U.S. was founded as an exclusive “club” under the name of the “Cincinnati Red Stockings.” Yet, despite the significance of this unique, popular sport in the history of America’s culture of recreation, baseball’s title as the official pastime in the U.S.A. is perpetually challenged by what is arguably the most popular American sport of the modern day – football. A metaphorical cold war has existed between MLB and the NFL for as long as the two have been competitive, and, unfortunately, whether America’s pastime should be reserved for baseball or American football remains subjective. Indeed, popular opinion will be the deciding factor on who claims the description of America’s pastime, so here are a few important facts about each sport that might help you take a side in the battle over this prestigious title:
- Technically, neither sport is an original American invention. The origin of both sports is fairly obscure; initially, baseball was thought to have been invented by a New York man named Abner Doubleday in 1839, but this was later revealed to be a myth. Historically, baseball seems to be an evolution of “cricket” and “rounders,” which are both English sports. The derivation of “baseball” occurred in the early 19th Century with the help of a man named Alexander Cartwright. Similarly, American football was
derived from similar games in England (where it is commonly referred to as “rugby” today). Like the changes to baseball imposed by Cartwright, modern American football resulted from rule alterations courtesy of college graduate Walter Camp. Overall, neither sport is entirely American, though, if the argument were to be made, baseball is slightly more original based on a greater deviance from its root sports.
- While both sports are athletically rooted, baseball is focused more on technique, whereas football popularizes brute strength and strategy. In baseball, the defending team needs to coordinate fielders to prevent batters from rounding the bases and reaching home plate. This is achieved by gaining control of the ball (once it is struck by the batter from home plate) and moving the ball across the field to the base-running area. A player that gains possession of the ball whilst guarding a base can tag a player “out,” and 3 outs result in the teams swapping play objectives. Thus, as the main object of both teams is to manipulate the position of the ball while simultaneously keeping as little contact with it as possible, baseball is a very technical sport predicated on clean, efficient play. In contrast, football consists of a race against the clock, in which both teams attempt to coordinate ground-gaining plays to move the ball into the opponent’s goal area at the end of the field. While the team in possession of the ball uses blocking, throwing, and running tactics to move their ball, the defenders ensure the quarterback (the player chiefly responsible for the ball’s movement) gains as little ground as possible. Both sports embody significant American values – competitive spirit, teamwork, athletic prowess – but which specific trait is more defining for the United States as a whole – skill or strategy?
- Public opinion in the U.S. favors the National Football League. Perhaps the most significant argument in favor of football over baseball is the numbers as they exist in modern-day America. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the combined television contracts for the NHL, MLB, and the NBA barely amounted to 1/3 of that of the NFL, with marketing expenses numbering at over $3 billion. The average market value of the NFL’s teams exceeded $1.1 billion for the same year – close to double those of MLB, and, most importantly, the NFL brought in an additional $1.8 billion in sales revenue over MLB’s 7.7. While in some areas, the NFL does not come out on top by such a significant margin, the numbers are definitely stacked in football’s favor. While the NFL and MLB are only the top divisions for each respective sport in the U.S., they speak loudest on public opinion. MLB, despite its lagging behind the NFL, still dominates 2nd place in nearly all statistics when compared with other members of the National Sports Leagues of America.
Baseball is preached as America’s pastime by highly-accredited sources across the nation, but the numbers have shown favoritism towards football in recent years. Is the public opinion changing? Will baseball be overtaken by a large margin by football in the public eye over the course of just 10 more years of American sports? The answer to this question may be largely influenced by you. Consider these 3 important facts carefully and take a stand! By your own opinion, the answer to the question “What is America’s Pastime?” may very well be set-in-stone someday!