One of the great truths of life is that baseball is better than football.Disagree? If so, then ask yourself: Besides being wrong about this, why do you also hate puppies, grandmas, children and freedom?Provided you are sufficiently chastened, let us, in the dual interests of reaffirmation and reeducation, remind ourselves why baseball is indeed better than football. With a nod to the baseball significance of the number nine, here are nine reasons why this is undeniably so …
This one's simple enough: Baseball has Albert Pujols, and football doesn't.
Baseball has Roger Kahn, Leonard Koppett, Roger Angell, David Halberstam, Jules Tygiel, Robert W. Creamer, Bill James, Peter Golenbock, Rob Neyer and Thomas Boswell (among many others) within its literary stable. Accordingly, there's just nothing in the football canon that compares to towering works like The Boys of Summer, Summer of '49, Bums, Baseball's Great Experiment and so many others. It's called the thinking person's sport for a reason.
Crusty scribes love to rouse the rabble over the price of going to a baseball game. And, yes, if you're hellbent on eating a seven-course meal at the park and buying every kid within eyeshot a souvenir, then you're going to pay dearly at any sporting event. But when you look at ticket price, baseball is the clear winner. The price of the average NFL ticket last season? $75. The price of the average MLB ticket last season? $26.74.Heck, last season the average NFL ticket was more expensive than the average Yankees ticket.
Back in the days of Grange and Nagurski, this would've been a debatable point, but in the modern era no pro football player plays both ways on a regular basis. In baseball, every starter save the DH and pitcher in the AL must hit and field his position. We're lucky to be able to see guys like Ichiro and Chase Utley (pictured) wield the bat and the glove. And doing both with proficiency is perhaps the most impressive feat in all of sports. After all, even the otherwise great Michael Jordan was lousy at baseball.
The morality of the system
The NFL has a salary cap, which is nothing more than a mechanism to protect the owners' profits. And, despite the violence of the sport, they don't hand out guaranteed contracts. Players are expected to honor the contracts they sign, but teams cast players aside when they become less than useful.The NFL is a game of dangerous attrition, and former players face post-concussion maladies (including mental disorders), limited mobility, constant pain, infirmity and perhaps early death. And that's to say nothing of the ongoing neglect of its retirees. The NFL views its players as faceless automatons — functionaries to be plugged in, used up and replaced. That mentality makes Florida State's Myron Rolle undesirable because he had the temerity to become a Rhodes Scholar.Because baseball has a strong union and is demonstrably less harmful to participants (Jamie Moyer, pictured, still plays at 47), there are no such hang-ups.
An all-too-common refrain among some sports fans who — pity them — don't know better is that baseball is boring. Those fans may be surprised to learn that the average NFL game serves up a mere 11 minutes of, you know, actual football. As the Wall Street Journal discovered, viewers of an NFL game spend a whopping 67 minutes feasting their eyes upon … "players standing around." Of course, any sport with a halftime is fundamentally flawed to begin with.Complain all you want about pitchers stalling on the mound or batters stepping out of the box to check the sign, admire the grain of bat or undertake crotch modifications, but baseball has no halftime and certainly delivers more than 11 minutes of product.
The in-person experience
Honestly: Lambeau in November or Wrigley in June? Advantage the latter, and it's not a particularly close call. Football, by choice, is played in the cold — or at least the gathering cold — but baseball is the sport of spring and summer. At a baseball game, the beer refreshes you. At many a football game, the beer contributes to your mounting hypothermia.As for the venues, there's a sameness to football stadiums that extends beyond the uniform dimensions of the playing field. Ballparks, in contrast, are part of the experience. There's Wrigley and Fenway as portals back in time. There's PNC and Camden Yards and many others for those who like architectural beauty mixed with modern comforts. Each ballpark has a personality and a story.
For all the meowing about baseball's competitive-balance "problems," it's worth noting that MLB gives a fairer shake than the NFL. Over the past 10 seasons, the NFL has produced seven different champions and 14 different Super Bowl participants. Over that same span, MLB has churned out eight different champions and 14 different World Series participants.Now consider the structural differences: If MLB, like the NFL, let a larger percentage of its teams into the playoffs, used a one-game postseason format, played a vastly smaller sample of regular-season games, gave teams a week between games to scout and game-plan the opposition and rigged the schedule to benefit weaker teams, then there would be no comparison in terms of parity.
Baseball has a stronger historical resonance than football does. Jackie Robinson as the image of valor, Babe Ruth as the symbol of American possibility, Mickey Mantle as the quintessence of boyish zeal, Roberto Clemente as an icon of furious pride. It was baseball — not football — that ferried our nation through two World Wars and the Great Depression, and it's baseball that has a more prominent place in the American narrative.