I recently had the opportunity to attend what I consider to be one of the great sporting traditions of America. Please take note that I did not say "in America", but "of America".
I don't think that we take enough pride in our uniquely American traditions anymore. In sports we have baseball and we have football. These are both great sports which have peaked at different times paralleling the change in the personality of our country.
There is no doubt that in our society, Football is king. Superbowl Sunday is the last holiday of that vaunted holiday season we call "Bowl Season". Many families are more likely to spend time together for that game than they are for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Football has put his heel on the throat of professional baseball and is squeezing the life out of the "Great American Pastime".
Personally, I think that is a shame, and it saddens me to no end. I do not mean that as any kind of statement about football. I love football, and I follow it as much, if not more, as anyone else. It is an invigorating sport to play and watch and follow. It is primal, and full of adrenaline, and ...... simple.
Baseball has killed itself by trying to be what football is. Baseball is a thinking, patient man's sport. You work the details, you apply the pressure, and you push until the opponent slips. Unlike in football where you push until the opponent breaks. Baseball is not a battle, it is subtle and beautiful, creating a breed of uniquely confident and self-sufficient individual, rather than an aggressive, vengeful bully. Now, we all know what has happened to baseball. Society wants to see aggression, not tension. They want explosions, not drama. That being what the people want, combined with incredible greed, professional baseball has undercut itself. Between strikes and rampant substance abuse, they have choked off their own life blood: the support of the fans.
There is one place where the baseball purist can go, every year, to refresh their passion for the sport.....Omaha Nebraska.
College Baseball is the bastion for the players who love the game enough to put in the time. They play for free, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves, and the fans of their teams show theirs just as readily. People travel from all over the country to buy General Admission tickets and stand in line....in the hope that they will be able to get in. People plan their vacations around it EVERY YEAR, whether their hometown team is playing in the championship or not. They are friendly with the fans of the other teams, remembering years past, and last night's big play. Laughing over BBQ and Beer. They cheer for good sportsmanship and effort. They make heroes of the 5th year senior who lays down the sacrifice bunts and will never be paid to play the sport that he loves.
It is what sports should be. Good natured rivalry combined with joyful revelry under a midwestern sun.