The conservative love affair with baseball
As the threat of terrorism looms, the economy deteriorates, and the culture flounders, one thing remains a constant in America: there will be baseball.
It is true that football long ago surpassed baseball as the nation’s most popular sport, but Alexander Cartwright’s much beloved brainchild remains America’s pastime and purportedly the favorite sport of many conservative intellectuals.
Inherently American and merit-based, baseball and conservatism appear to share as tight an embrace as Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson after game seven of the 1955 World Series. “It has no clock, no ties and no Liberal intrusions into the organized progression,” conservative columnist and baseball enthusiast George Will once wrote.
The Daily Caller recently talked to a number of conservative writers who consider themselves serious baseball fans to explain their love of the game and better understand what draws the conservative mind to the sport.
Fred Schwarz, of the National Review, theorizes that a major reason the game appeals to the conservative psyche is that it does not change. Where football and basketball have altered some of their rules over time to increase the intensity of their games, the distance from home plate to first base will always be ninety feet and a foul ball will always be a foul ball.
“[B]aseball has more of a laws-and-not-men vibe, in the sense that penalties or fouls or violations called by officials play a much smaller role in baseball than they do in football, basketball, or hockey (balks are the only thing that springs to mind),” Schwarz told The Daily Caller. “Among other things, this leaves less room for administrative overrides of the basic rules, such as allowing the top players four or five steps before taking a shot in the NBA. And statistics provide a more complete description of the game in baseball than they do in other sports, which appeals to the Charles Murray types.”
According to conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, conservatives love baseball because “it is so damn slow.” He said that the image of baseball as the game of conservatives is, however, half reality, half imagery.
“Bill Buckley once said his mission in life was to stop the world. Well, modern conservatives don’t want to stop it, they just want to slow it down and the perfect model is baseball. To be more serious about it, I don’t know why baseball seems to go with conservatism, I don’t even know…[if] it is entirely true,” Krauthammer told TheDC, noting that liberals such as Doris Kearns Goodwin and Roger Angell also enjoy the game. “It could be the fact that George Will and I are spotted much too often at Nationals’ Park.”
To say Krauthammer is merely a fan is to say Willie Mays only made an okay catch in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.
“I just love the game and I often go alone simply so I can just study it. I know it’s slow and for most younger people they can’t tell what the attraction is. It’s a very elegant game. I don’t even think it is the greatest of games. I love to see anything done beautifully whether it is ballet, music or baseball or walking the four inch balance beam in gymnastics,” he said. “For me, when I go to a game, usually with a losing team, I go to see a few great players. I’m happy if I’ve seen Zimmerman charge. If I’ve seen Zimmerman charge two ground balls, pick it up barehanded, after circling around and throwing as he falls to his right, underhand or even sidearm – that’s worth the price of admission.”
The National Review’s Daniel Foster told TheDC that the relaxed and constant nature of the game is what appeals to him.
“I think the beauty of baseball is that there is no clock so the game takes exactly as long as it needs to. I think there is something inherently conservative about that,” he said. “Also people tend to knock baseball for being boring and slow paced. But I love the 162 game season. It is a conscious companion through the spring and summer and fall. It’s reliable, dependable, faithful and I think there is something very warming to the cockles of the cold conservative heart about that fact.”
Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, said that while baseball may be the favorite sport of the conservative intelligentsia, football is more likely the favorite sport of the conservative masses.
“George Will puts a conservative intellectual imprint on the sport, but with a lot of conservatives I know football predominates,” he said. “I would expect among most conservatives in the country football might be more popular because it is the most popular sport in the country. Among the conservative elite, I think there might be a preference for baseball.”
Lowry himself has been an avid Yankees fan for years. “One of my most prized possessions as a kid was a hat [my dad] brought back from a trip to New York. It was probably one of the most ratty things — I never took it off my head.”