Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand
Sunday, February 03, 2013
“Corroded by scandal and undermined by shocking new science, America’s killer sport may be nearing collapse” Not if “Dr. Death” Steve Williams has anything to say about thi…oh, wait.
If baseball is, or at least used to be, a languidly paced sport played on an asymmetrical greensward that recalls America’s agrarian past, football is an industrial product of the modern age. Confined to a precisely measured rectangle that mimics the electronic screen, football plays out in staccato bursts of violence, interrupted by commentary and meta-commentary, near-pornographic slow-motion replays and scantily clad young women selling you stuff.
...It’s admittedly difficult to imagine that possibility now. For at least 20 years, football has had unquestioned supremacy among America’s major spectator sports. If the process wasn’t quite complete by the time baseball committed near-suicide with the 1994 players’ strike and the ensuing “steroid era,” that pretty much settled matters. Beyond the obvious fact that football is more fun to watch from the sofa from the stadium, and brings people together on weekends when it’s too cold to spend time outdoors, various aspects of the game seemed to capture the ethos of 1990s and 2000s America on a symbolic level. At least at the pro level, football focuses on freakish excesses of size and speed (augmented by who knows what exotic chemical regimens), head-on collisions that rival a demolition derby, and overheated masculine melodrama surrounded by endless nattering. It’s like all the vulgarity, violence and excitement of American life served up in a colorful three-hour package on Sunday afternoon. With beer! No wonder people enjoy it so much.
...Just as the Church in America will never be the same after the sexual abuse scandals, America’s dominant sport will never reclaim the air of cartoonish, ‘roided-up unreality it had a few years ago, when no one in sports journalism knew how to spell “encephalopathy.” All the loudness and emptiness of the Super Bowl spectacle can’t conceal the aura of doubt around the future of the game, or the collective shock of our discovery that the endpoint of this gladiatorial combat is actual death. Football is a central ingredient in the American narrative of masculinity, and it’s also the zillion-dollar linchpin of network television. But in case you haven’t heard the news, both those institutions are in crisis. Is it hard to imagine America without football? Yeah, but it’s time to start. It’s a killing game, and we have to let it die.
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