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Monday, April 03, 2006

Play Ball!

Baseball's opening day is today (well, not counting one game last night) and some of us at the M Zone are happy about that. But more of us aren't. I find that interesting since there are so many similarities between college football and major league baseball.

Both sports are steeped in tradition and sell the tradition as a reason to follow the game. Whether it's records that have stood for 100 years, the Yankee pinstripes, or the fact that the rules haven't changed much for a century, baseball has more tradition than any American sport. But college football would be right behind, with the winged helmet, "Wake Up The Echoes," Uga, Bevo, and Ralphie and too many more traditions to list here.

The tradition in both sports is shown in the reverence for the places the games are played in. Hearing a baseball fan wax on about Wrigley Field or Camden Yards, it would be easy to just substitute The Horseshoe or The Swamp and elicit the same response. There's also a link in the music at the stadiums. Sure, there's contemporary music pumped over the PA at both sports, but the college game wouldn't be the same without a genre from deep in the last century: the marching band. And baseball has lost a lot of its nuance as teams have gotten rid of the organ.

Both sports are linked by fathers and sons. Both games are passed down from generation to generation, and though there's never been a college football version of "Field of Dreams," there easily could be.

Both Major League Baseball and college football owe a lot to ESPN. Both sports have games on the network's two major broadcast outlets, and there sometimes seem to be an endless array of talking heads blabbing on about both sports.

Food and drink are a huge part of the experience of attending either an MLB or college football game. Going to a baseball game and not getting a hot dog and a beer would be a hollow experience for most baseball fans. Meanwhile, tailgating is such a popular activity on a college football Saturday that people actually list it as a hobby on personal Web sites.

There even seem to be some fairly obvious individual/team similarities:
  • New York Yankees/Notre Dame - both garner the most attention whether they deserve it or not, both are driven by money, and though both are the most hated, they also have the most fans and it's good for both sports when these teams are good.
  • Teams like the A's and Twins are similar to the non-BCS schools like Fresno State or Utah who have fewer resources, but manage to upset the big-money teams and even appear in a BCS game, yet they can't get over the top to win a title.
  • Barry Bonds and many unnamed teams cheat - and get away with it. We all know there are college football programs out there that cheat. Maybe they do it well and don't get caught. Maybe they get caught but don't pay a heavy penalty. Well Bonds, with his home run records, has achieved much of his success the same way.
  • The leaders of both MLB (Bud Selig) and the NCAA (Myles Brand) are incompetent, incapable losers. Yet they always try to put the right spin on any issue, and are a detriment to the great games they represent.
So even though many of their fans may not overlap, there are plenty of similarities between Major League Baseball and college football. The college football fans may find baseball incredibly boring with the season containing way too many games, and basebal fans might view the college game as an inferior product to the NFL version. But even though I'll be more excited on September 2nd, I'm happy to see the baseball seeason starting.

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