A Football House or a Baseball House?

Me, on the field at Yankee Stadium in 2012.

Do you come from a football house, or a baseball house? Some probably come from neither. I come from a hybrid, but I quickly found my way to baseball, which is the superior of the two. I have very early memories of baseball. I remember watching parts of the 1978 World Series in our family room. The Yankees won the Series, and I was happy because I was a Yankee fan. I remember drives out to Shea stadium to take in a Mets game, and knew from the start the Mets were a second-division team. What, but a second-rate team would build a stadium under the flight path of a major airport, so that games would have to be paused each time a 727 and L-1011 flew by?

Football was also popular in our house growing up, although I think it was more popular with my Dad than with my Mom. I remember going to a college game at Rutgers. I also attended several New England Patriots games in the early 1980s. I was unimpressed with football from the start. In one of those Patriots games, I seem to recall the goal post in one end zone falling down. How could any respectable football team allow that to happen. My Dad is a Giants fan, and I suppose I would be a Giants fan, too, if I enjoyed football. Interestingly, I don’t ever recall going to a New York Football Giants game at Giant Stadium in New Jersey.

Growing up, I played organized baseball, but disorganized football. I played the former in a league, and the latter with friends in the street, or in a field, typically with a Nerf football. Time was defined by baseball. Spring meant a new baseball season, and fall meant baseball playoffs. Football, on the other hand, always seemed to intrude on life. I grew to hate football in the mid-1980s when, while living in Los Angeles, Monday Night Football often pre-empted episodes of MacGyver. Decades later, when I had season tickets to the Baltimore Orioles (mostly to catch Yankees games), I began to loathe the August games because the scoreboard and sound system would report the current football scores during the 7th inning stretch. Hey, if you want football scores, go to a football game why don’t you?

My relationship with baseball reached its low point in 1986 when the New York Mets won the World Series. I suppose I wasn’t as disappointed as Red Sox fans were.

Thinking back, football and baseball weren’t the only two sports my family watched, although I think they were the preferred sports. I seem to recall a lot of basketball games on the television. Watching basketball seems boring to me, except for the last few minutes of the game. I suppose people think the same thing of baseball. My Dad watched hockey games, but I think he was the only one. I tried, but I could never follow what was happening on ice, and it wasn’t until recently that I learned that basketball, soccer, and hockey are all variants of Lacrosse. I have John McPhee to thank for that.

There must have been some kind of sports hierarchy in our house because if baseball or football or basketball or hockey wasn’t on the TV, then golf was, although I hesitate to call golf a sport. Golf is a mystery to me. I had a golf lessons for my 16th birthday, but I don’t think they helped to reveal the mystery to me. My Mom is a very good golfer. My Dad is a very good golf-watcher. The last time I played golf with him, he got fed up halfway though, and stormed off to the clubhouse, swearing he’d never play again. He left his wallet in the golf bag which he had, just then, willed to my brother.

He did play again.

If golf was not on television, then it was tennis. Tennis was even worse on television than golf. At least with golf there was scenery. Tennis is nothing more than watching two people hit a ball back and forth. And while I am sure there is some valued tradition behind it, tennis has the most ludicrous way to keep score of any sport I know. Keeping score should be simple. In baseball, each time someone crossed home plate safely, it adds one run to the score. Soccer and hockey are also simple. Football and basketball are more complex because different actions have different score values: a touchdown is 6 points, a field goal is 3, a safety is two, etc. Tennis’s scoring system is baroque. Why is no score called “love”? Why do you get 15 points each the first two times you score, but only 10 on the third time?

Boxing was on TV in our house now and then, but rarely any of the so-called “good” fights because those required Pay-Per-View and we didn’t have Pay-Per-View. I had no interest in boxing whatsoever when I was a kid. I had no interest in it as an adult either, at least until I read The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling a few years ago. After that, I decided that if I could go back into time and take in some of the small club fights in the 1950s, I’d do it.

When all else failed, there was horse-racing. I’ve watched a few horse races over the years, and the two minutes during which the race is taking place is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in sports. If the television broadcast started at the bell and ended when the horses crossed the finish line, I might consider horse-racing among my favorite sports. Unfortunately, the broadcasts last forever, and that spoils the entire event.

Many people consider this time of year to be football season. Growing up in a hybrid household as I did, my brother, my Dad, and possibly my Mom consider it so. But really, it’s just baseball’s “off-season” where all kinds of interesting things are happening. You could read about it in agate type in the sports pages, if the sports pages still printed the transactions in agate type, or any type for that matter. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

4 thoughts on “A Football House or a Baseball House?

  1. I love these long and thoughtful blog posts, they are the reason I’ve had your feed in my RSS-reader for years 🙂

    Anyway, as a European being more than normally interested in American sports, I enjoy basketball the most. Baseball? Well … maybe more as a cultural phenomenon than for the athletic content or appeal of the sport. I liked reading about the Cubs in ’16 and enjoyed the storytelling about the Nats this year. I even watch a recap on the MLB app now and then, but an entire game … nah.

    My own first exposure to baseball was a game between Mets and Yankees in May 2011. My wife and visited New York for the first time, and since the Knicks weren’t in town, I convinced her to a trip to the Bronx.

    Things I remember best from that night:
    * Apparently people in the U.S. eat constantly during games. Never seen so much food consumed ever at any sport event in Europe
    * Very relaxed affair with almost no tension at the stands. Coming from Europe expecting a heated ‘local derby’ between rivals, this surprised me quite a bit
    * The coolest thing was the introduction of the players. The announcer sounded like a recoring of an ancient and classy gentleman: “With number 2 … (long break) … DEREK JETER”. I asked the guy next to me what it was all about, and he told me it was a recently deceased announcer. Sheppard, I believe was his name.
    * Don’t remember much of the game it self, to be honest. My wife found baseball profoundly boring to watch.
    * I still wear my Teixeira t-shirt occasionally

    Having seen a lot of ESPN during my visits to the US and listening to podcasts from The Ringer and First Take, I understand just how big a deal football (both collegiate and professional) is. But I would be lying if I told you I truly understand or enjoy the sport. It’s not even the time difference that’s the problem. It’s 7 PM Sunday night in Europe when the early games are being played, so I could theoretically watch the them withouth problems (it’s much more difficult following my Denver Nuggets, the games are on at 2AM. Ugh.). The rules are just mind-buggling for a newcomer, there’re far to many breaks during the game – and it’s just so extreme violent, both on and off the field. The Ray Rice story was so grotesque, and Roger Goodell just messed it up. And then there’s all the CTE stuff. So to be honest I find it difficult to understand why you Americans love the sport sp much.

    PS. As the majority of the non-US world, I’m from a football house. But ‘football’ as the rest of the world percieves it. It’s only you and the Australians who has the audacity to name it something as silly as ‘soccer’ 😉

  2. Kaare, I’m glad you enjoy these posts! That makes me day. And sorry about the whole “soccer” thing. I don’t know where that came from, but I will tell you that several die-hard fans/parents at my son’s game refer to it as “football” and to the goalie as the “keeper” so they are doing their part.

    And the “Sheppard” you heard was the voice of Bob Sheppard, who held that post with the Yankees from 1951 – 2007.

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