Baseball is Still Our National Pastime
What is a National Pastime? According to Wikipedia, it is a ‘sport or game that is considered to be an intrinsic part of the culture of a nation’. And, from the same source, you can find some very interesting ‘national pastimes’. For example, ‘Capoeira’ is the national sport of Brazil. It is described as a Brazilian martial art developed by slaves combining elements of dance, acrobatics and music. It even has a special protected status by the United Nations as an ‘intangible cultural heritage’. The UN list itself is full of interesting items. For example, the ‘Portuguese Cowbell’ - this must have something to do with needing ‘more cowbell’. Boy, can you get lost wandering the internet.
Back to the original question, why is baseball still the National Pastime? Many people say that football should be our country's National Pastime, having far exceeded baseball in television viewership years ago. Every year, one of the news stories around the World Series is that television viewership and ratings have declined from the prior year. Except for 2016, with the Cleveland Indians being the big once-in-a-lifetime baseball story. Maybe the Chicago Cubs had something to do with it also.
But this brings us to the obvious answer of why baseball, not football, is still the National Pastime - Roman numerals. People are going to remember, forever, or at least a long time, that the Chicago Cubs won the series in 2016, the first time since 1908. Even more importantly, the White Sox World Series victory in 2005 was their first since 1917. OK, for you non-Chicagoans, perhaps an important date is when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, their first since 1918.
However, imagine if the Chicago Bears were to win the Super Bowl this year. Yes, that takes a lot of imagination. But would fans now be able to remember, and tell their grandkids, that they saw the Bears win Super Bowl LIII, and that was their first victory since the famous Bears team win of Super Bowl XX? (And yes, had to look it up). You can’t be the National Pastime if your championship uses Roman numerals. How about 1969, the year three New York teams won their respective sports championships. I was living there at the time and remember the '69 Mets and the 1969 Knicks, but which Super Bowl did the Jets win? Answer – Super Bowl III. So, no, football is not our National Pastime, baseball is.
Another consideration between Baseball and Football is in-person stadium attendance.Total in-person attendance at MLB games last year exceeded 75 million dwarfing the second place finisher at 25 million – Japanese baseball. TV viewership is not the only way to rate a sports place in Society.
On the other hand, football still has an important role in the preservation of American culture – the metric system. We are never going to convert to the metric system as long as football is still important. Can you imagine football under the metric system? The gridiron would be 91.44 meters long. Instead of first down and 10 to go, it would be first 9.14 to go. Have an offside penalty? Move back 4.57 meters. What about football records? Jim Brown was the first rusher to exceed 12,000 yards, a lot more interesting than being the first rusher to exceed 10,972 meters. The first player ever to rush for 2000 yards in a season (2,003 to be exact) was OJ Simpson, which is certainly more interesting than being the first player to have exceeded 1,828.8 meters in a season. Who was the first quarterback ever to pass for 5,000 yards in a season? You might think this did not occur until recently in the pass-happy NFL. Drew Brees has done it five times since his first time in 2008. But actually, Dan Marino was the first to pass for over 5,000 yards in a season, way back in 1984. How would it sound to say that Marino was the first passer to ever exceed 4,572 yards, a record that stood for 24 years? Records matter and they would be ruined by converting to the metric system.
Therefore, I award football a second-place honorable mention as National Pastime for their role as a bastion against the metric system. But baseball is still number one.