OLIVER: Baseball, America’s pastime, is more than just a game

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eric oliverThe Green Monster, Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, the great homerun battle between Sosa and McGuire and, at least for me, the 2005 World Series. These are the things that make baseball the greatest game ever played and why it will always be America’s pastime.

In the weeks leading up to this year’s World Series, the decline of its popularity became a common subject for sports journalists. Since the ’70s, the series has been on a constant decline with the 2012 contest between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers posting the lowest numbers of all, an average of 12.7 million viewers per game.

This year’s series saw a rise in popularity, some attributing it to the Red Sox’s ability to bring dynamo numbers whenever they are involved. Game 1 attracted 14.4 million viewers; Game 2, 13.4 million; Game 3, 12.5 million viewers and Game 4, 16.6 million viewers.

Despite these numbers, the rumors that baseball lost its title as the great American pastime still run rampant.

But I have to disagree.

I was born a fan of the White Sox. Some of the earliest memories I have are of going to Comiskey Park, what is now U.S. Cellular Field, when I was a kid.

I’ve seen them all: Frank Thomas, Michael Jordan, Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko. The list goes on and on.

Baseball is about more than just viewers and television ratings. Some of the best experiences of my life were thanks to the White Sox. I’ll always remember watching Mark Buehrle’s perfect game at home. I’ll never forget my first Crosstown Classic. There is something about the tradition and the narrative of the game that make it so much more magical than its biggest sports rival football.

Throughout American history one thing remains consistent: baseball.

In WWI, grenades were modified to be similar to baseballs because American GIs could throw them farther. As America industrialized, construction workers went to the tops of buildings and dropped baseballs off them to their colleagues below, something that would later prove to be very dangerous as the balls would accelerate to hand shattering speeds. Even the first commercial bats could be a symbol of America because they were made by a German furniture maker trying to manufacture the American dream.

The saying “baseball is as American as apple pie” is backward. Apple pie is as American as baseball, because baseball is America. The realm of its influence is incredible, and it can be seen throughout the world – the World Baseball Classic being just one example.

Yes, football exploded in popularity since it was first introduced, but that shouldn’t be surprising. It’s a lot more interesting and action happens all the time. But football will never replace the simplicity of baseball. There is nothing better than going out on a hot summer day in July to sit under the blazing sun and watch two pitchers duel it out.

Every game has its own story. Its own magic. It is something that football just can’t replicate, no matter how hard it tries.

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