Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Was the shift in popular preference of Americans from baseball to football an augury for a shift
from a democratic republic to a dictatorship?

Willie Mays played professional baseball. In 1999, Mays placed second on The Sporting News's "List of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players", making him the highest-ranking living player. His sport, baseball, is called "America's Pastime" partly because as one sports writer explained in America's Pastime: 20 Reasons Why Baseball Will Always Hail over Football:

    In a way, baseball is everything America stands for. Everybody has a chance on a baseball field.
    If you're old, maybe you can run a team like nobody's business. If you're young, maybe you're your favorite team's biggest fan. If you can't field, maybe you can hit. If you can't hit, maybe you can pitch. If you can't pitch, maybe you're the best dang bat-boy baseball's ever seen.
    Baseball is always making room for all sorts of people; it doesn't hand-pick athletes.
    If you lost, you lost fair and square. Sure, the umpires might've blown a call or two during the course of the game, but not enough to completely decide the outcome of the game. It gives the game a final feel to it.
    There's something truly magical about baseball. Something that you can't lay a finger on, but it has always been there.

Baseball is not a "contact sport." A "contact sport" is "a sport in which the participants necessarily come into bodily contact with one another." Football is a contact sport, a deliberately violent sport. Here is what we know about Americans:

I grew up when baseball was America's Pastime, when I saw Willie Mays playing for the San Francisco Giants.

Yes it was during the decade of the 1950s when the 49ers were known in the NFL for their so-called "Million Dollar Backfield", consisting of four future Hall of Fame members: quarterback Y. A. Tittle and running backs John Henry Johnson, Hugh McElhenny, and Joe Perry. They became the only full-house backfield inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We knew about that, sometimes even saw local games on TV. But football was just not imaginable as America's Pastime. We thought....

As the polling folks at Gallup explained:

    On Jan. 16, 1972, a Gallup headline heralded, "Football Overtakes Baseball as America's Top Spectator Sport." And indeed, sometime between 1960 and 1972 -- spanning a decade marked by sweeping moral, religious and cultural change in the U.S. -- Americans shifted from a primarily baseball-loving people to a primarily football-loving people.
    The first televised NFL game occurred in 1939, and regular broadcasts followed in the 1950s. However, TV coverage really took off in the 1960s as the NFL and a newly created rival league, the AFL, negotiated big network contracts. The momentum continued with the first Super Bowl played toward the end of that decade, followed by the debut of Monday Night Football in 1970. Whatever the cause, by 1972 Americans were enchanted with the game.
    Even in 1972, the impact of television was obvious -- as George Gallup said, "Interest in football has no doubt been affected by the steadily increasing coverage the sport has received from the major television networks."

The fact is football is violent and dangerous as explained in detail in We Know Football Is Dangerous. So Why Are We Still Letting Our Sons Play It? The fact is chronic traumatic encephalopathy entered the conversation in 1997, over 20 years ago. Why aren't these kids playing baseball - you know, Little League?

And is the football fascination reflective of three 21st Century facts about America?
  1. We have embraced the building of edifices to football violence similar to the Roman Colosseum, known as the Flavian Amphitheater, where festival of violence and slaughter were held and, usually scheduled during the lunchtime interval to provide some light relief, Christians and others would be thrown in with a variety of wild and ferocious animals, such as leopards, boars, and lions, and required to fight for their lives.
  2. We encourage our children to use electronic devices linking them to commercial enterprises which increase their impatience and shorten their attention span thereby making it difficult to appreciate a non-violent, relatively slow baseball game.
  3. Surrounded by violence and impatience, we have determined to "correct" all cultural "errors" using approaches to change that have left those who lived within, and rightly or wrongly believed they benefited from,  the previous cultural norms angry.
You must ask yourself, does the Willie Mays quote apply to baseball fans? If you read America's Pastime: 20 Reasons Why Baseball Will Always Hail over Football the answer would seem to be "yes." The article also offers this thought:

    Here's a famous quote from a writing: "The game begins in Spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rain comes, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."
    If that's true, then football begins when everything is dying.

After five centuries the Roman Republic ended in political conflict, during which Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator and then assassinated in 44 BC. Ultimately in 27 BC the Roman Senate formally granted  Octavian, Caesar's adopted son, overarching power as emperor and the new title Augustus, effectively marking the end of the Roman Republic and the creation of the Roman Empire. Construction of the Colosseum began 100 years later under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72.

If "between 1960 and 1972 -- spanning a decade marked by sweeping moral, religious and cultural change in the U.S. -- Americans shifted from a primarily baseball-loving people to a primarily football-loving people" did that shift presage the end of our Republic?

Did the shift from baseball to football augur the death of our democratic republic and the rise of a dictatorship?

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