Baseball isn’t the most popular sport in the United States anymore. NASCAR is the number one spectator sport, and football is the highest rated sport on television. Nor does baseball reflect the priorities and temperament of the country the way it used to. That dubious honor might also be shared by auto racing and football, two metaphor-rich sports. Like NASCAR, the U.S. seems to be going nowhere fast, consuming a lot of natural resources in the process. And big-time football is infused with the language of battle — fitting for a nation currently engaged in two wars. (Major League Baseball is hardly pacifist, a point made abundantly, almost oppressively clear in the provocative new book “The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad.”)
If baseball’s status as the national pastime is in jeopardy, if it doesn’t capture the national imagination the way it used to, and if doping scandals have put an asterisk next to an entire era (my fantasy team this year is called the Roiders), baseball has still managed to become my favorite sport in the last few years. I get excited for Opening Day the way I used to for March Madness. How did it take me this long to see the elegance, drama, philosophy, and even poetry of baseball?
Anyway, in honor of opening day, here is a video of George Carlin’s legendary stand-up routine comparing baseball and football.