Football may be more popular, but baseball will always be our national pastime.
We have only a couple hours before Tim Lincecum unleashes the first pitch of the 2010 World Series as the San Francisco Giants take on the Texas Rangers. But more than a trophy at the end of the year, The World Series is an annual showcase as to why Baseball will always be America's national past time, and why, by comparison, the NFL will never challenge for that supreme title.
It's not a question of team revenues, television contracts, or merchandising (where the NFL has succeeded over all others). No matter how many business categories you might beat the other guy at, you cannot win the emotional attachment of an American sports fan by just producing receipts, no matter how many Tim Tebow jerseys you sell.
There is a visceral, tingling essence inherent to the game of baseball that the NFL game simply lacks. You feel history when you walk into a stadium, and that feeling is baseball's ultimate trump card against the NFL, and why it will always exist on a higher level.
In my own case, I walk past statues of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal when I attend Giants games, and hope for home runs to fly into Willie McCovey Cove.
There are 46 bronze plaques on the façade of AT&T Park, comprising the "Wall of Fame". These plaques celebrate lesser known (only lesser in the eyes of the statistician) heroes to countless Bay Area fans. The faces on the plaques reflect the many different decades of Giants baseball, from the circus throws of Johnnie LeMaster and Jose Uribe, to the courage of Dave Dravecky and the cold clutch of Will Clark.
All of those memories hit you at once, and each player's image reminds you of a different time in your own life as a fan. Each one serves as a unique marker in your mind of a touchstone moment.
The images access memories, like when maybe you were a little more interested in the hot dogs than the game, but can still see your Dad through your 6-year-old eyes, jumping up and down in the stands next to you as Darrell Evans took one over the chain link fence at Candlestick Park.
Baseball’s beginnings are also inextricably intertwined with the very history of our country, and that standing is honestly too much for the NFL to ever compete with, regardless of how many ratings sheets they might shake in the air.
Historic franchises like the Giants, Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox certainly lend their legend to the younger upstarts like the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Rays. These younger teams might lack their own history, but their status alone as a Major League Baseball club gives them historical standing that even the most storied franchises of the NFL can’t approach.
The NFL tries to win this impossible battle by marketing a glitzy, pop culture, quick hit brand of Americana, one replete with fireworks, flashy entrances, constant action, replays of every play, scantily clad cheerleaders, Navy SEALs parachuting into stadiums at halftime and headlining pop stars providing further layers of entertainment.
They have special theme songs to get you pumped up for Monday Night Football, dancing computer-generated robots, panels of shrieking analysts that force feed the viewer a steady diet of constant theatrics and pure spectacle.
When baseball has a big game, they put the red, white and blue bunting out.
Tonight, you will see that same bunting hanging from the rafters of AT&T Park. That very same bunting can be seen every summer hanging from streetlights during countless Fourth of July parades, at Veterans and Memorial Day events, and at stump speeches given by candidates for office.
Some of you probably have some bunting in your garage right now.
This is the ultimate reason why the NFL will never supplant baseball as our national pastime, because the NFL will always be forced to market to America, when baseball can market itself as America.
Come and see an exciting game in the NFL, or come and see history be made in the World Series.