Saturday, February 2

Baseball v. Football, Spectator

We sit here, on the Eve of the Super Bowl, and Ezra continues his internal discussion about the Merits of Baseball versus Football as a Spectator Sport. Football apologists contend that Football is more than thugs running roughshod over and through each other. Yea, while the high speed collisions are fun to watch, Football is the Ultimate in Sporty Strategy, they argue. These Grid Iron advocates point to the various Schemes and Packages with which Offenses and Defenses must identify and deal. For these reasons, Football sophists claim that Football is exciting and Baseball is boring; that Baseball is a Game for Simpletons. They reduce Baseball to Pitch => Swing => Run (if applicable).

Fie on them! Ezra does not doubt the rightful place of Football in the Hallowed Pantheon. Nor does He discount the intelligence required to be a successful Football Player and Coordinator. NFL playbooks are titanic, accounting for virtually every conceivable contingency. To comprehend and know all that these tomes contain is a Testament to the Players' Intelligences (saying nothing, however, about their Sagacity). Further, many writers attempt to discern underlying, hidden Truths of Football through their discussions on the relative merits/demerits of various players and plays (see here and here for examples). Ezra Applauds them for their contribution to increasing Knowledge in the World.

But Intelligence alone does not inherently endow success (see Wilson, Woodrow) or watchability. Verily, some of the most Entertaining items to watch are decidedly devoid of intelligence, altogether. Usually, they just piss Ezra off. The Problem with Football as a Spectator Sport lies specifically and solely on its Complexity. What Football apologists trumpet as Football's Greatest Strength is its Signal Weakness. Witness what is required to make a Football play successful? Ezra uses the Game-winning TD pass from Brady to Moss to cap New England's Perfect Season. On it's face, the play appears straight forward. Brady hits Moss on a fly pattern. But this is not what actually happened. Both Welker and Moss line up on the right side. Welker runs a short route (excuse Ezra for not knowing exactly what the route was - he has more important things to occupy his mind). Two Giants players commit to Welker, leaving Moss in single coverage. Moss blows by his defender, and receives an adequate pass from Brady. This cursory analysis concerns only 6 (27%)of 22 Players on the field at the time. Each of the unmentioned 16 Players played their part in the success/failure of the play.

Given how complex these plays are, how, Ezra asks, is One supposed to fully appreciate the Intricacies of Football. Nay, one can only appreciate it after watching replay upon replay. This does not a good Spectator Sport make. The quality of a Spectator Sport lies in the ability of the Fan to attend the game and fully appreciate what is occuring, and why a specific play works or does not. This is where the linearity of Baseball Ought to be Appreciated. The schematic listed above is actually not too far off the Mark. And this is one of the numerous ways in which Baseball is Superior to Football. In a contest that pits Man against Man (Ezra challenges you to find any Sport in which it is more fun to watch women than Men), the Spectator ought to know the cause and effect of each event without the aid of multiple replays. Not only does Football fail this metric, it is astonishing just how dramatically it fails.

2 comments [add yours!]:

spanky said...

Michael Lewis's "The Blind Side" made me appreciate football and its warlike controlled-chaos intricacies a whole lot more, but ironically my increased appreciation for the sport in theory reinforces your point in practice. The book focuses its (nonfiction) narrative on a wunderkind left tackle, a crucial position whose contributions to a game are generally only discernible by experts analyzing extensive reviews and re-reviews of game tapes, after the fact.

I should kick you in the teeth for the derogatory Lost reference, but I've long known you to be a pop-cultural Pharisee. Your mother.

spanky said...

Another thing:

Ezra challenges you to find any Sport in which it is more fun to watch women than Men...

You made no exception for general perverted leering, which helps elevate women's tennis to often being as enjoyable as men's (excluding Federer, who is basically God in tennis shoes). Watching a men's match with a high-ranked serving specialist on a fast surface—say, Andy Roddick on grass—is often downright boring. Maria Sharapova never is.

And don't give me any bullshit about tennis being a stupid sport. You like soccer.