Maybe it’s because we like what’s on the receiving end of the smack to be smaller and paler, but the longer I follow baseball, the more I notice its similarities to golf. I’ve never plied a club on any course that doesn’t involve plywood on the sides of a long narrow green and aiming at the bottom of a windmill–but then I’ve never played nine innings of actual baseball, either, so I guess I’m as much of an expert on one subject as I am the other.

Perhaps the more slender profile of the baseball player lends itself more easily to golf in retirement. Players and even broadcasters seem to migrate directly from the diamond to the front nine. It is fitting that one of Joe Nuxhall’s last public acts was to participate in a charity golf game. Jockeys tend to wander this direction as well, possibly because it allows an outlet for competition while still allowing for the fact that one is, you know, ollllllllllllld. My baseball-playing grandfather, an avid Reds fan who died in his 90s, was golfing into the last year of his life, having made the sole concession of splashing out for a cart every once in a while when he felt tired.

Golf is graspable even for those of us who would sooner drink directly from the Mill Creek than sit still for eighteen whole entire holes of it. And for those who don’t grow up with the sport, baseball can be initially difficult to understand, but when compared with the absolute logistical nightmare that is football and the web of sooper-secrit passing plays that clog up basketball, baseball is relatively simple.

It’s fair to say that golf and baseball are enduringly popular both for watching and participating in this nation because they plunge the participants in the core of the American dream:  Being left alone. A culture of denial does not sit well with Americans, who hate being told what to do so much we formed our own country over it.

NFL ratings are in a freefall largely due to its foray into political commentary, an incredibly bad idea which baseball flirts with every now and then and a zone which golf has largely avoided. As matters of blue and red states creep into every aspect of life from which social media platform we use to the kinds of coffee and chicken sandwiches we consume, we just want to take in a game for 2-4 hours on a Saturday. Seeing what we wanted to get away from in the first place smugly sashaying its way onto the field tends to negate a sport’s stress-relieving abilities.

Baseball is, like golf, a game of positives. There are far more “dos” than “don’ts.” Anyone who has attained an elderly age trying to muscle through the final two minutes of any NFL game will attest to this. Stopping the game for bad behavior happens every few seconds in football; in baseball, if the umpire is up in your grill, you have screwed up, and even then your buddies will roar in from the dugout to help convince the umpire that he’s wrong for saying you were wrong. While golf at its highest levels is a regular War and Peace of do’s and don’t’s in matters of etiquette, the game itself consists, at its element, of hitting a ball with a stick.

Which sounds familiar.

19 Responses

  1. sandman

    I’ve never understood the lure of golf. It’s got to be one of the boringest sports out there. I tried to watch just a teeny tiny part of a golf match on TV a very long time ago and the announcers had to, at times, speak very softly. I’m convinced that if I had watched more than a few minutes of it I’d of fallen asleep. I mean, what is this…a sport or a lullaby? Anyway, I’m not dumping on golf, I just don’t understand the lure of it. I’m sure for some of you that’s unimaginable just like I find it unimaginable how someone don’t like baseball, football & basketball (the only 3 sports I like, in that order, bcuz they’re fun…to me. Both to play and to watch). All other sports I just find boring. Not that you asked or even care but I’m gonna tell you anyway…so gather round the fire kiddos. But, the other 2 sports I rank right up there with golf for the most boring are soccer and hockey. Those 2 sports are similar imo bcuz there’s a lot of going back and forth with very little scoring. Now, before you jump my case, I do realize that some might consider low-scoring baseball games in the same category as hockey & soccer but the difference, for me anyway, is that while some baseball games may be low-scoring, most (if not every) game of hockey & soccer are low-scoring. Car racing, BTW, is another sport that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s just a bunch of cars going around in a giant circle or oval for a seemingly endless number of hours. In my opinion (again) people have no right to complain about how long some baseball games go when NASCAR races can be just as long or longer if things go just wrong (or right… depending upon your preferences) enough. Anyway, these are indeed just my opinions and I know not everybody is gonna agree with them. Sorry if I offended anyone…wasn’t trying to. It all boils down to taste I guess. Everybody’s different.

  2. sultanofswaff

    The science on head injuries makes football less appealing to the casual fan as well. Personally, it’s the main reason I don’t watch it anymore.

    • sandman

      Sultanofswaff, I’m not a casual fan. The NFL is trying to combat the problem by eliminating head shots and the helmets are getting better and better and I think there are even concussion protocols. That’s enough for me. I realize though that there’s only so much that can be done in this area bcuz the brain just kinda floats in our heads but does that mean the sport should be outlawed…no. People love football and love to play football. There are efforts and awareness now and like I said earlier…that’s good enough for me.

      • sandman

        Jim, if everybody was so afraid of injuries or the unknown, then nobody would have any fun. Can’t live life scared. I respect your feelings on this but people are gonna have fun and not some watered down version of fun just bcuz we’re scared of some injuries.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Next book is about the season I spent embedded with TBDBITL. Stay tuned 🙂

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        2011– last year before the bomb was dropped.

  3. Eric

    …aaaand before everyone piles on WVRedlegs for being a this and a that and whatever-whatever, let’s just remind ourselves that had the NFL and ESPN swung to the complete opposite end of the political spectrum, it would be just as bad. MBE is correct: all we wanted to do is get away from things for a while. The fact that MLB has not decided not to participate in this happy game of Let’s Alienate Over Half Of Our Fan Base only makes me love the game even more.

    Besides…we’ve got plenty of other things to argue back-and-forth about! Y’know, Pete Ro…, wait, MBE already discussed that… 🙂

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Now there are some who say that the MLB is becoming political as well because it has begun establishing ties with the military; the Reds aren’t the only team who have camo uniforms and Hometown Hero moments. There are those with the opinion that this is an endorsement of right-wing politics. Personally, I think thanking troops/vets is a bipartisan thing we should all be doing, but it’s a slippery slope discussion worth having.

      • Eric

        I see what you’re saying, but…A.) those who are upset by that are likely part of a perpetually unhappy lot who are looking for something to be upset about; and B.) I agree with you – actually, I’ll take it further – it’s not ‘bipartisan,’ it’s American, as the United States Armed Forces are not the Red State Militia – they serve and protect us all.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Yes, exactly. I think it’s insulting to leftists and Democrat-voting veterans and troops to suggests that such things are only for the right.

  4. Mary Beth Ellis

    Then I’ve done my job 🙂 Thanks.

  5. Scott Carter

    Baseball and golf are very similar, not only do you swing a stick at a ball but the pace and rhythm are similar, and both provide a competitive atmosphere for those of us who like that. Baseball has always been my first love but after high school, I was not good enough to play anywhere, so I gravitated to softball but even there the body gives out on you, I had to give that up at 52, but golf I am hoping to play just like your grandfather. I still love watching baseball but golf is something I can continue to actually play.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I couldn’t even handle softball.
      Or tee ball.
      Kickball, marginally.

      • Eric

        “Golf ain’t even a sport. Anything that an 88-year-old man can whip me at…is a game!” — Tim Wilson

  6. Still a Red

    I can understand the difficulty for some to watch golf. But if you’ve tried to play, like i have, and still am, you can appreciate just how special pro golfers are, not just physically, but mentally. I mean, it can’t be that hard to hit the golf ball straight when its just sitting there…right?! P.S. When I was young (and even a little when I was older) I played alot of baseball and so am also very impressed watching the skills of major league baseball players.

    • TR

      Golf is a tough game that takes lot of skill plus practice as well as dollars for fees. I enjoyed the many years struggle to be an average golfer along with being an intermediate skier. But all that ended many years ago when I was struck by a hit and run driver while on a bicycle. Now, as an old man, I try to get at least 20 minutes a day walking with the aid of crutches.

  7. Mary Beth Ellis

    See, people just need to listen to me. Thanks for the reminder of that great FoD quote.

  8. De bear

    The demise of football by the viewing public has been greatly exaggerated my dear! Viewership for the first Sunday night football telecast was several percentage points higher compared to the same 2016 SNF game. 2015 may have been a peak year and 2016 was down due to disruptions by the election, it’s cyclical.

    If politics were truly a huge issue than basketball viewing would be in sharp decline but that isn’t the case.

    Football may ultimately decline in the long long run once the overwhelming evidence of head trauma finds the light against the NFL’s attempts to bury the story but for the near term football viewership will do just fine.

    That said, always enjoy your writing…

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Parts of it may also be regional as well. USC drew more than the Rams and Chargers combined. But I’ve followed figure skating more closely than football since grad school, so maybe I’m not the best authority here.