Thursday, April 04, 2002

BASEBALL: Allen Barra deconstructs the simple big markets=baseball success argument. He's responding to this New York Times article by Nicholas Dawidoff in particular:

If winning were simply a matter of a large payroll, then why couldn't Mr. Dawidoff and everyone else have predicted that the Arizona Diamondbacks were going to win the World Series last year? Why in fact don't the Atlanta Braves win the World Series every year? Surely it is apparent to Dawidoff that the enormous Yankees payroll of recent seasons has not gone to free-agent superstars but to reward the Yankees' largely homegrown talent for what they have already won.

I have my own problems with the Dawidoff piece, like when he says:

Part of the reason many of America's finest writers, from Walt Whitman to William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost, have been drawn to baseball is that they felt the game stood for some of the very best aspects of being American. "It's our game," Whitman wrote, and it "belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution's laws." As a professional game played by men sized and shaped like average citizens, baseball has always seemed to represent the virtues of honest competition and fair play. It is enormously alienating to most fans — for whom baseball is an escape from the prosaic matters like wages and budgets — that it has become impossible to talk about the sport without talking about money.

Let's not forget that that particular list of America's finest writers lived in an era when baseball was all people had to watch. The post-modern era has a zillion different sports to watch and I think you could argue any of them as being representative of fair play or democracy or the American way or what have you. Paglia thinks football is the American sport, and you could make a case for pro wrestling on the cultural level. I like baseball as much as the next guy, but I can't take arguments of baseball essentialism telling me why it's the One True American Sport --it's an unnecessary argument, as unnecessary as baseball's antitrust exemption (and I'm suddenly thinking the two are related in an unconscious way.) Just watch the game and enjoy it; there's no need to invoke Walk freaking Whitman.

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