The Role of Baseball in the United States
Giving credit to the most popular and ubiquitous American game, the French philosopher Jacques Barzun stated that “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules, and reality of the game”. The author emphasized the complexity of the game and multifaceted nature hidden behind its simplicity. Due to its popularity in the country, baseball has become the symbol of the United States. The sport has the unique and distinctive status for two primary reasons. First, the game has its long and rich history in America. Second, baseball provides a sociological touchstone for shaping and understanding the American culture, values, and beliefs. Baseball deserves its special status because it is present in virtually every social event in the United States in the past and present. The game not only reflects the principles American society, but also shapes it throughout the history. In the United States, baseball takes the leading role in explaining major cultural, historical, and social changes and peculiarities of the nation.
First of all, baseball plays a crucial role in establishing and illuminating the American identity. The United States is an exceptional country with the combinations of many nations in the world. The main distinction is the absence of considerable ethnic or religious affiliation that can be identified as single American feature. However, a common civic identity forged by the love for baseball unites millions of Americans. Thus, the fans share the common values, preferences, and experiences shaped by baseball.
In the lives of Americans, baseball has a high status, which is also acknowledged by influential nation’s leaders. Practically from the inception of the game, the phenomena of baseball and America have been symbolically synonymous. In 1856, the New York Mercury firstly declared the novel sport as America’s “national pastime”. Four years later, nationally recognized lithographers Ives and Currier compared baseball with the upcoming presidential election, naming both as “national games”. Due to its status as the America’s favorite pastime and its rich history transmitted verbally and via printed and video media, the game became associated with a salient and firm moral order. The sport represents a commitment to a mythological ideal that values fair competition, the dependency, and strict adherence to tradition. In addition, poet Walt Whitman perceived baseball as “America’s game,” comparing the importance of the sport to the value of state laws and constitution. Baseball is as important as the legacy of America’s life throughout the centuries. It has become a natural phenomenon to speak of baseball and America interchangeably, using one as a metaphor and substitution for another. Thus, every citizen of America appreciates the favorable attitude towards baseball.
Baseball is a prominent game because it shapes the personal characteristics required for sports. The players are associated with a combination of strength, grace, audacity, and agility. As a rule, baseball players willingly and freely expose themselves to dangerous and risky situations, having no protective gear. Thus, baseball teaches bravery, discipline, and strategy that are essential skills and abilities for a victory. Moreover, ascribing values and traits to the game and players has helped to shape the new portrait of an average American. The game has been promoted as “building manliness” and viewed as an ideal method for developing good character and constructing the ethics of success. Overall, the game molds young people and helps ordinary boys become confident men not only through playing, but also by observing how other players handle the difficulties of the game.
Baseball is an invaluable tool for spreading the American ideals and values across the country and around the world. America has always been the land of opportunity. The phenomenon is embedded in the game and transmitted through the examples of lives of successful players. In addition, baseball has become a key instrument in promoting and spreading the American ways of life across the globe through broadcasting of baseball competitions and showing films and programs about prominent players and life-changing games. As a result, the world has become aware of the all-American game. Moreover, people are attracted not only to the sport, but also to the American attitudes, values, and beliefs embodied in baseball. Thus, American society has become the global model in terms of fashion, movies, and music. The baseball perspective presents the American culture as the one of the “winners” that establish the rules followed by the “losers”.
Another role of baseball is the reflection of the American history because the kind of sport is tightly connected with the historic events. At the times of the Civil War, the game was played during lulls in fighting. It embodied the peaceful moments and retreat to ordinary lifestyles every soldier had enjoyed before the war. Moreover, baseball was viewed not as a game for either the North or South, but as a national sports. Due to the fact that the country sought unification at the war time, numerous baseball clubs reflected the desire through naming patriotically the teams as American, Eagle, Washington, and Liberty. Furthermore, President Roosevelt allowed the major baseball leagues to continue participating in scheduled games during the World War II, explaining that baseball has a significant role in boosting American morale.
Baseball also has the prominent forefront position in the modern civil rights movement. Jackie Robinson, the first black player, combatted the color barrier in baseball, as the black people had been segregated from the majors in the late nineteenth century. Although his achievement did not end racism in American baseball, his contribution helped to prepare for the modern fight for equal rights. Thus, baseball serves as a perfect prism, through which it is possible to analyze race relations in multinational country. In addition, the game has been the reflection of the changing ethnic composition of the country. It became a game that can offer avenues of assimilation for people from different economic, ethnic, and social background. Moreover, throughout the long history of the country, baseball has been perceived as an agent for democratization.
Baseball is indispensable attribute of the American culture because it is a part of the tradition of many families. The game is an integral part of every person’s childhood. Moreover, hundreds of children attend the baseball games hand-in-hand with their parents. The families can either play together or watch the games. In any way, parents spend more time with their children, diversifying their lives, and improving the leisure time of the teenagers. Thus, baseball serves as a tool that can promote the bond between the younger and older generations. In addition, baseball largely contributes to the improvement of the public health.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, two powerful influential institutions have played a crucial role in constructing American culture. The two are business and baseball. The game has a fundamental position is shaping genuine American lifestyle. The game has etched into the American speech, psyche, and culture. Considering its prevalence and people’s obsession with the sports, it is possible to infer that baseball has become a real secular religion in America, as Rielly calls it the American Church of Baseball. The perception has created nation’s corporate name recognition, the entire advertising industry, and commercial aspect of baseball.
The important position within the American society has established the status of more than a professional sport. Baseball always reacts to technological and societal changes. It has become the favorite pastime for millions of citizens. The baseball evolution is connected with the transformation of the game from an entertainment for the working class, rough and urban kind of sport to a game that combined America’s commercial future and the memory of its rural and pastoral past. In fact, baseball became a cultural mirror. For example, when ballparks were built, their design and location symbolized the ideals and concerns of the growing American cities. In addition, with the establishment of radio as a popular information sharing medium, baseball games became the most interesting and anticipated part of its programming. As a result, baseball and the radio created a symbiotic relationship with lucrative outcomes for both parties. Most importantly, baseball introduces a new class of celebrities that are highly admired and followed by millions of fans in the United States and worldwide. Baseball has been an important means in revealing the problems at the center of American culture. For instance, the game intensified the presence and influence of gambling, racial and ethnic tension, labor disagreements, and the relationship between cities and sports organizations.
The game has established a baseball-related oral tradition through storytelling narratives and retrieving the past events. Sharing stories helps to appreciate the game and facilitates interactions between baseball-loving people. If individuals do not know each other and interact for the first time, they can strike a conversation by virtue of common memories and stories about baseball games. Passionate fans can endlessly discuss significant details and dramatic moments of the games. As a result, people create the entire system of retention that guarantees shared recognition of the most remarkable baseball events. The conversations about the important scenarios as well as retelling the morals of stories make the oral tradition of baseball to become an essential and influential element of the game. Thus, baseball storytelling has created a shared mythology that has the foundation for immortality.
In the modern world, baseball reflects the on-going changes in the modern life and people’s attitudes. Thus, the kind of sport reveals the enormous unrest in the contemporary society through the constant contentions in the game. Moreover, the diminishing appreciation for baseball symbolizes the decaying observation and value of the essential qualities of the American life. Nevertheless, baseball represents the symbol of stability of the American life. Despite the changing attitudes and preferences, the baseball game remains the same as it was decades ago, having the same passionate and attentive fans across the country.
In conclusion, baseball holds the central role in the culture of the United States and in the lives of its citizens. The reason is that the game can clearly and realistically describe the national character, culture, and temperament. Moreover, baseball represents values and cultural norms that dominate urbanized and industrialized America. The game is a mirror that reflects the microcosm of culture, politics, fashion, class, ethnicity, and economics in the contemporary American society. Baseball promotes democracy and patriotism, fosters closeness among family generations, expresses the unification of America, and explains cultural peculiarities. Thus, baseball is a significant game in the lives of the United States’ citizens because it reflects the mood of the nation, its aspirations, and ambitions.