If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need me to convince you that baseball is better than football, but I feel compelled to write again, so you’re going to get it.
I’m a Seattleite born and raised, and I follow all of Seattle’s teams to a degree probably equal to your average sports fan, but I watched the Seahawks game this last Sunday versus St. Louis and I just found it unwatchable. In fact, I turned to my computer, Fangraphs, and Microsoft Excel to begin my annual Fantasy Baseball spreadsheet more than three months in advance of the season. I know nobody cares about my fantasy team, so I’ll spare you the details, but it was somewhat arduous as I tried to make sure all of the Gonzálezes, Ramírezes, and Martínezes were consistent with their accent marks across different worksheets.
I’ve got to say, though, that the Seahawks game was even more arduous, as Rams players repeatedly spent the time between plays up in the faces of Seahawks players and penalty flags littered the field. I’m sure your Twitter feed blew up like mine did when referees announced that the Rams four penalties on one play were offset by a single Seahawks penalty. It seemed every play, even those that weren’t penalized, ended with a St. Louis Ram jawing at a Seahawk in effort to intimidate the home side, saying words we couldn’t decipher due to the facemasks on the players.
But if we read between the lines of Golden Tate’s taunt from the Seahawks win in St. Louis earlier this season, Carolina Panthers’ receiver Steve Smith’s commentary about the Rams secondary after their game, and the up-in-your-face demeanor of the Rams last Sunday, it looks like the team wanted to spend more time talking than playing. At least Seattle icon Gary Payton backed up his talk with actual game.
Baseball’s head game, though, is generally spelled out in actions during the course of play. Diving catches can make a slumping player doubt himself, thinking, “Will I ever get another hit?” A pitcher delivers a fastball high-and-tight to play the head game, setting up a batter for the changeup low-and-away or a back-door slider. The closest you get to a situation like the Rams/Seahawks game on Sunday is like Brian McCann’s citation of unwritten rules late last season against the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez, and we rightfully decry it as silliness. If benches clear, they do so once, it’s over, players are ejected as necessary, and we go back to playing our game.
Contrast that with the Seahawks game yesterday, with the action continuing throughout the game, culminating in the ejection of Kendall Langford of the Rams. It’s not the first time a Rams player was ejected this season either; Defensive End Chris Long was ejected from their game against the Panthers as well. It is true, though, that ejections are few and far between in football where in baseball they seem somewhat commonplace, but at least if you lose your head in baseball, you usually get to come back tomorrow and try it again. When a football game goes bad, you don’t get a chance at a better one until next week.
Football is built upon such a scarcity of games that the often-slim margin between victory and defeat is enormously important. An injury or an ejection is more important to a football season than a baseball season. Missing one football game, by percentage, is equivalent to missing more than 10 baseball games. A single missed call in a game can change a season; the Chiefs’ missed field goal against the Chargers on Sunday put San Diego in and Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. The incorrect call of a dead play in the Seahawks/Rams game led to Seattle Tight End Luke Willson getting his leg hurt and carted off the field after a play later that same possession.
You lose a regular-season baseball game on a bad call, and you can usually find one somewhere else where you got one in the win column. Luck doesn’t necessarily even out, but when you play 162 games a season you can point to any number of games and opportunities you should have converted. Teams do tie records in the end, but those are cherished exceptions and crescendos to the regular season. One-game tiebreakers and short-series playoffs bring the emotional immediacy of a football game into baseball, and it’s glorious, but it’s glorious because it’s the exception, not the rule.
If you can get engrossed in footballs’ offensive formations and what play-call you should make in a certain down-and-distance combination, you can get caught up in the pitcher-batter strategy trying to figure out what the hurler is going to throw in a 2-2 count. Two on and nobody out is like a chance in the red zone. Football has its “wow” moments when one player flattens another; baseball has them when the batter launches a high, arcing, 420-foot homer. For my money, there’s nothing football has that baseball doesn’t, and not only is there more baseball, but it rules every day of the summer. That’s reason enough for me to prefer it.