There's poetry in this savage ballet
August 9, 2006 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Can someone help me find an article that defends american football NOT baseball as the thinking man's game?

I know I read an article to that effect a little bit ago, but now my google-fu fails me. The closest thing I have been able to find is this article from Salon, but it isn't really what i'm looking for. I specifically was looking for an "expert" (and you can interpret that VERY loosely) delineating WHY baseball isn't necessarily as intellectual as people seem to think and why football (american football) is really very intellectually complex.

(This is specifically in response to a lunch conversation with a coworker who won't drop it, so... you know, pretty much my #1 priority right now.) =)
posted by indiebass to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry this isn't very specific, but I am 99% sure I have read the article you are asking about, and the ONLY thing sports-related I read is ESPN the Magazine. Could you have read it there?
posted by peep at 1:28 PM on August 9, 2006

Sabermetrics for Football from the New York Times? Exerpt:
Of all sports, football is the most strategic. Football coaches spend the late hours of the night poring over film, crouching over chalkboards and producing phone-book-size playbooks, all in the hope of gleaning some advantage... Strategy in baseball, while fascinating to aficionados, affects the results only around the margins. Even brilliant managers can't win championships with average players.

And yet, until very recently, it was baseball and not football that was reshaped by an intellectual revolution called sabermetrics.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:31 PM on August 9, 2006

I remember reading exactly that article in a column in Sports Illustrated years ago. It was basically a response to the George Wills of the world.

It amounted to this: thinking men don't like football because it is hard. There are lots of grand metaphors to be made about baseball and its roots in pastoral America, the rural/urban conflict in the history of the game, the part it played in civil rights, etc etc etc. You can think deep thoughts about baseball as a structure because as a game, like a piece of modern art, it is, in itself as a form, relatively simple. The outfield shifts in, the runner on second shades to the bag, and then you play ball.

Its harder to make similarly grand statements about football because, although its almost as old a sport as baseball it is dramatically more complicated. Drawing parallels between happenings on the field in football and life in general first requires a fairly legnthy discussion of why the action on the field was significant. Everyone gets the idea and existential beauty of a sacrifice fly. The strategic beauty of a power-trey action slant or the balletic grace of a well execute sprint right option is much more difficult to communicate, as you first have to communicate what those things are and why they are awesome to watch. And much like having to explain a joke, it loses much of its power in the telling.

That's the gist, and obviously I tend to agree. I for the life of me can't remember who wrote it, though.
posted by ChasFile at 1:37 PM on August 9, 2006

Response by poster: it is entirely possible that i read it in ESPN magazine...
posted by indiebass at 1:37 PM on August 9, 2006

i don't have time to look for it right now, but i'd guess its a gregg easterbrook tuesday morning qb article, either at espn or
posted by alkupe at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2006

Although it wouldn't surprise me at all if he repeated it as his own idea, I can assure you that this did not originate with and almost certainly was not put best by Gregg F'ing Easterbrook.
posted by ChasFile at 1:47 PM on August 9, 2006

what's your beef with tmq all about
posted by alkupe at 1:50 PM on August 9, 2006

It's not really relevant to this thread. My point was that it probably wasn't him. I know I was exposed to this idea years before I even knew Easterbrook existed.
posted by ChasFile at 1:52 PM on August 9, 2006

Response by poster: Oooh, ChasFile! That DEF sounds like the exact article i was talking about! And yes, it was set up like a response to the George Wills... I am going to see if I can Search the Sports Illustrated website.
posted by indiebass at 1:53 PM on August 9, 2006

Easterbrook article.
posted by staggernation at 1:55 PM on August 9, 2006

ok, you brought it up. OP didn't ask the origin of the "idea", just where he might have read it recently. Not sure what your basis is for saying it probably wasn't Easterbrook (unless its just that it probably isn't whoever anyone says since it could be anybody).
Seems to me that regardless of your "exposure" to this "idea", the OP could have read it in an article by tmq.
posted by alkupe at 1:56 PM on August 9, 2006

Response by poster: While the Easterbrook article isn't the exact article i was looking for, it is DEFINITELY the right vein.
posted by indiebass at 2:01 PM on August 9, 2006

delineating WHY baseball isn't necessarily as intellectual as people seem to think and why football (american football) is really very intellectually complex.

You're not going to win that argument anyway. It's much more complicated than you seem to believe.

While football is more complex at the coaching level (at least in the way you're measuring complex), it's certainly not at the surface level. You can explain football to a complete idiot and they'll get the basics in a day. Not the coaches playbook, but enough to enjoy the game.

I can explain baseball to anyone, but it takes a long time to understand the basics enough to know what the hell is going on. Baseball is a more complex game to enjoy.

And of course, there are other ways of looking at it. A football season is like movie, 16 games and done. Baseball, at 162, is more of a journey, with far more ups and downs (not unlike life).

You can gather 10 baseball fans, 10 football fans, and 10 WWE fans together and, for the most part, the wrestling fans and football fans will be very similar. And yes, I love football. But it speaks to the ease of grasping the basics of football, while baseball is harder to grasp. The fact that there are a thousand Xs and 0s underneath is lost to many. The game they enjoy isn't complex.

Long story short, football is both more and less complex than baseball. (and that whole 'manager doesn't mean as much in baseball' has nothing to do with complexity. Football is simply a more controllable game).
posted by justgary at 2:40 PM on August 9, 2006

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