Monday, June 7, 2010

Indeed, On Occasion We Can All Get Along

There’s your fair share of sniping between football…and football (a tangent: hey people who insist Americans call soccer football? You’re wrong. Thanks.), but one aspect that each sport shares is awesome celebrations. To wit:

I especially enjoy the celebration of the goal starting at :21.

And…football’s counter:

So, why does football—whether you play with a sphere at your feet or a oblong-shape in your hands—have such great celebrations (and other sports don’t)?

I think it’s pretty simple. For one, scoring is both rare and provides a convenient break in the action. You’d be very silly to celebrate after a score in basketball, no matter how outrageously awesome it was: you’d get beaten downcourt and scored on. Baseball, you’d think, would meet these criteria, which is why we need to be more specific: the difference between football and baseball is that a) baseball has a strong cultural norm against celebrating of any type (and, in fact, has strong cultural rules against seemingly random acts, like Alex Rodriguez crossing Dallas Branden’s mound. Much as I’d like to take any opportunity to ridicule Rodriguez as a jackass on a par with Duke University and Cristiano Ronaldo, this is in fact totally random and dumb. If the rule is so obvious and well-known, why did we have a debate over whether it was obvious and well-known? Moreover, there was a distinct phase in my life when baseball was by far my favorite sport, and crossing the mound never struck me as a sin against nature—though I never did it while I was playing) and b) scoring is too frequent, for a team. A good team in the EPL scores at least 70 goals or so, or a little less than 2 a game. The amount of scoring, along with the way baseball stretches so languidly in time both over an individual game and the entire season, means that it’s a little harder to get worked up about each individual score. That leads me to my last reason: baseball often doesn’t have a hell of a lot of style. Touchdowns and goals have a pretty high style:routine ratio (where routine would be represented, say, by the running back burrowing in from two yards out or something); whereas I feel the routine outfield single to score a man from second is, well, routine and frequent. There are some baseball players with style, but it’s overwhelmed by the players that don’t. And if there’s no style, what exactly is there to celebrate? Celebrations are the confluence of these circumstances: a successful act done at a critical time in a cool, unusual manner. More often than not, that’s football.

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