The Debate: Part 4

11/10/2005
"Shoot your hopes and dreams!"
USA! USA!
Will the disappointment never end?
Every time?
Pretty much the best athlete.
A while back, Page 3 was home to a debate about which sport was better -- football, or baseball. And while it aroused intense feelings on both sides (too intense at times), the debate was always lacking something. In many ways, the argument was like a debate about the best Saturday morning "high school-based" tv show. One side was arguing California Dreams while the other argued Hang Time. It's an interesting argument for a while, but at some point someone needs to speak up and remind everyone of Saved By the Bell.

With that in mind, I will now present the case for why basketball is the best sport.

But first, we have to set some ground rules:

1) The discussion will be limited to the sports of baseball, basketball, and football. (Sorry tennis!). We're going to stick with these three because, well, they're the top three sports in almost every sense. For the record, I still consider hockey to be a major sport, but it just doesn't belong in this debate at this time.

2) Each sport is being examined "as a whole". In other words, we won't be looking at solely the professional leagues of each sport, nor will we be focusing just on watching the sport or just playing the sport. Sure, at times we'll focus on one of the various forms of each sport, but in the end, football will refer to the NFL, college football, a bunch of guys playing the game at a park, etc. Likewise for the other two.

3) I just want to state right now, lest there be any confusion, that I really really like all of these sports. In most of the arguments I make, I'm speaking in matters of degrees. If I say that one sport is more exciting than another, don't read it as me calling one sport boring and unwatchable. They're all great as far as I'm concerned, I just feel there are areas where certain sports deliver more than the other. This may sound like a stupid thing to make as a ground rule but I think it's important to get it out of the way and hopefully decrease the venom-filled responses.

4) Here's the format: I'll give a reason why basketball is great, and then I'll give an analysis of each sport in that area. Sometimes it will go into depth, sometimes maybe not. But I'll try to explain why the other sports either campare favorably or unfavorably. You'll catch on.

Here we go.


Top to Bottom, basketball has the best athletes.
"What?" you ask, "all baseball and football players are uncoordinated blobs?"
No. You're not paying attention. For starters review ground rule number three. Secondly, notice the phrase "Top to Bottom". In other words, "overall" or, (though slightly different but still mostly accurate), "on average."
Listen, any athlete on any team in a competitive league is a good athlete, whether it's football, baseball, basketball or badminton. But what I'm really getting at here is a high level of physical fitness combined with a high skill level.

In baseball, guys like ARod, Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter, and Ichiro have this quality. But there's another side to the coin. Take a look at the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox and you'll notice that their two best hitters and one of their two best pitchers are all great at what they do, but aren't exactly giving Dan and Dave any competition for World's Greatest Athlete.

In football, obviously there are guys like Randy Moss, Michael Vick, Terrell Owens, and every cornerback who plays. But the flip side is an even greater contrast than in baseball. Football is the only sport I can think of other than Sumo wrestling where athletes are not just encouraged, but in essence forced to push their bodies to carry so much weight that they put themselves in serious danger. It's sad really. And I'm not joking when I say that. I don't think it's ridiculous to suggest that there's something wrong when roughly half the team can't sprint from one end of the playing field to the other without needing an oxygen mask.

Moving on to basketball, you just don't see the kind of variation you do in the other two sports. Sure many teams have a slow, clumsy center who may be overweight in certain cases, or a shooter that can't move well, but for the most part, every competitive basketball player is a pretty good all around athlete.

Basically, for all these words, the argument is pretty clear. Just use your eyes.

Next Topic!

Basketball has few practical barriers and a high level of uniformity.
I'll explain. This is about two things. First, how easy is it for an average person to get a game going with a few of his or her friends. Second, how much does that game with your friends resemble that sport's games at the higher levels.

Football presents serious challenges in this area, though mostly just on the second criteria. Getting a game of football going is fairly easy. You need a ball and a field and roughly eight players total to get the minimum basic game going. One major difference though is that most of us don't have a set of uprights, though for the moment I'll just say that there are uprights available somewhere near most of us.
Now, when it comes to how much a game in the park would resemble an NFL game or even a high school game, it comes up a bit short. First of all, we'll revisit those uprights. Do we use them usually? Probably not. It's pretty tough. Any kicking at all would likely only be punting or kicking off and those are both fairly tough to pull off too. Now obviously there's technically nothing stopping us from doing these things except our own talent, but the fact that it's a huge part of the pro game and so hard to incorporate into the everyday game is kind of a negative for football in my mind.

Similarly, most games in the park don't feature pads, offensive and defensive lines, and many don't include tackling. Each one of these is fairly integral to the general "ideal" version of the sport but just aren't able to be easily integrated into our games. We can make up for it with "10 apples" and flags and two hand touch but it's never quite the same.

Baseball has it's own set of challenges. For starters, the way I figure it you need a minimum of about 12 players total to get a good game of baseball going. Anything fewer than that and someone is doing a lot of running in the field. Plus, six is about the minimum you can have in a batting order and be assured of no ghost runners. (Unless you feel comfortable doing weird illegal switches, then four would be all you need. Still, you'd need more fielders than that so it would be difficult.) Baseball diamonds are fairly easy to find, so there's no real trouble there. The only other major hardware needs are the gloves, bats, a ball and maybe a helmet or two. Not terribly difficult but it may cause a bit of organizational trouble.
Now here's where we come to a big deal. Most baseball games we play in the park actually have to be slowpitch softball games. For one, if it were baseball, we'd need catcher's equipment. And two, it's just tough to do anything otherwise. I mean it's hard enough getting a group together to play anyway. Throw in the difficulty of pitching and hitting and you could be in for an afternoon of walks, strikeouts, and beanballs. I know it can be done otherwise, it's just difficult. Maybe not as difficult as getting your ball back from a man-eating dog, but still difficult.

Basketball, on the other hand, has few challenges. For starters, basketball hoops in this day and age are basically ubiquitous. Just go outside and throw a basketball up in the air and you're likely to hit a backboard. You might even catch rim. Plus, there are indoor facilities that are generally even nicer and, with a bit of searching, most of us have access to at least one such place. Which means, of course, that you can play in the winter or summer. I figure to get a good game going you need only 6 players total. Three on three is a pretty good game, but even if you don't agree, you should note that the most you'd need is 10 players which could be kind of tough but is still not as many as a rudimentary game of baseball. And once you have the court and the players, all you need is a ball. From there, the game is essentially the same as the NBA. (Or if you prefer, the same as college or high school.) Obviously the skill level is likely to be different, but you can play by the same rules as the pros quite easily if you wanted to. Think about it. Other than maybe the shot clock, is there any essential piece of the game missing? (And if you're wondering, I don't consider the shot clock essential, but if you wanted to point out a difference, that would probably be the most glaring of them all. Which says a lot.)

As an added bonus, shooting hoops by yourself is a relatively good substitute for the actual game if you're alone. (Note the use of the word "relatively.") Baseball offers those hitting machines or batting cages. For football, I guess you can go tackle yourself or something. Maybe kick some field goals. But really, those options leave a lot to be desired.



Basketball is an international game
Actually, basketball and baseball are both international games. To what degree is each sport an international game? Just going off of what I had observed over the years, I figured Major League Baseball had a greater population of foreign-born players. However, I got the feeling that the NBA was a bit more "spread out" globally. (Basically, I figured I could name at least a player or two in the NBA from each continent (excluding Antarctica) but couldn't really think of any African baseball players. Or really any active European players.) However, I wasn't sure which league's players represented a greater number of countries.
Since I care about you, our readers, but even moreso because I didn't want the embarrassment of printing information that could easily be proven wrong, I did some research.
Here's the breakdown.

According to this MLB press release, of the 829 players (active and injured) on opening day rosters for 2005, 242 of them were born outside the 50 United States. (I'm assuming that Washington D.C. born players are not regarded as international.) That's approximately 29.2% international players. According to the press release, "These players represent 15 foreign countries, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands." According to my count of their own list I find that it's 14 countries plus Puerto Rico plus the Virgin Islands.

Now, compare those statistics to the NBA.

According to this NBA.com page, as of October 31, 2005, there were 82 international players in the league. They did not specify the percentage of the league that this constitutes, nor the total number of players in the league. However, there are 30 teams in the league and each has an active roster of 12. This makes 360. If we assume that the NBA has a percentage of injured players similar to the percentage of injured players the MLB has (both relative to their active rosters) we get a total NBA player population of about 398, which means that the NBA's international population is about 21% (If you use just 360 as the total population you get about 23%.) All this to say that the MLB does in fact have a greater percentage of international players.
The page also tells us that these players represent 36 different countries and territories. That's an amazing number if you ask me. It's double the number of countries represented by Major League Baseball! (An interesting note if you're in to this kind of thing: according to this MLB page, if you include the minor leagues, the MLB number jumps to 33 countries.)

Anyway, as I see it, baseball and basketball are both international games. I won't argue one over the other.

But then there's football.

There are some international players in the NFL. Don't ask me to name any, but I'm pretty sure there are some. I didn't immediately find any statistics on it, though there is this article on the handful of such players who were drafted this year. But I doubt I need statistics to convince anyone that the NFL is almost completely comprised of U.S. born players.

So, is this a big deal? Is this a negative for football? Well, for the most part, I would say yes. There is something to be said for having something unique to the U.S. But on the other hand, if you look at what the international players have done for the other two sports, you have to think football is missing out on something pretty big. Can you imagine baseball without Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, Johan Santana, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, or Ichiro? Each of those guys has made serious impacts on the record books and are among the most exciting to watch play the game. How about basketball without Dirk Nowitzki? Can you imagine the Spurs without Tony Parker or Ginobili? Yao Ming might be the third best center in the game today and one of the few who can give Shaq some trouble. Each of those four guys has made a huge impact. (And that's just in the state of Texas.) It's no big stretch at all to say that the internationalization of baseball and basketball has created a higher level of play in each sport.


So there you have it. Three simple reasons why basketball is superior to other sports. This may have changed your mind on this topic, but probably not. We all have our own preferences, probably because each person has his or her own criteria for what makes a sport great. The reasons I like basketball might be the reasons you dislike it. So argue that my criteria are bad if you'd like, or that I totally judged your favorite sport incorrectly, but don't freak out about it. I just don't have the energy to deal with that.


Jon would like to dedicate this article to all of Page 3's basketball fans.

sarah.jpgSarah - How do you use these things?
11/10/2005 @ 06:35:17 PM
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There are only 20 basketball fans in the world so this article is irrelevant. May I suggest spellcheck? :)
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2887.gificbeast - 3618 Posts
11/10/2005 @ 10:35:49 PM
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I would add that one other thing that is different between "real" basketball games and pickup games is that "real" games revolve around a game clock and pickup games are ended when a predetermined score is reached. And of course things like fouling out and free throws are usually different too. And a lot of times you have to call your own fouls. Actually, they are quite different games. Still less different than pickup football or baseball compared to the real thing though.
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scott.jpgScott - 6225 Posts
11/11/2005 @ 12:14:17 AM
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I haven't even read all of it yet and already I know there is no preventing the venomous comments
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scott.jpgScott - If you aren't enough without it, you'll never be enough with it.
11/11/2005 @ 12:27:33 AM
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Give Jon a Peabody(just like Stephen Colber). I still think baseball is the best sport of the big 4, but that has to be without a doubt the best Page 3 article released to date. Why? Citing sources, actually doing research, very few empty opinions, covering many angles, etc.

Jon, International NFL player.....Samkon Gado, Nigeria (and I only know that because he just joined the team and they said it during Sunday's game)
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matt.jpgMatt - 3369 Posts
11/11/2005 @ 02:37:11 AM
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Actually, it's been pretty well determined that my Pudding Pop article is the greatest article of its generation.
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hoochpage.JPGSarah - How do you use these things?
11/11/2005 @ 09:40:24 PM
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I take offense to Scott's comment, as I know other Page 3 writers do as well. What does reasearch (sic) have to do with writing articles? I like ranting and there's nothing wrong with writing about one's opinion. Freedom of speech man, Happy Veteran's Day.
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scott.jpgScott - 6225 Posts
11/12/2005 @ 05:31:56 PM
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Sarah, refer to Jon's ground rules. Me saying that Jon's article is my favorite or the best is not my way of saying that everyone else sucks. Also, no where in Jon's article did he use the argument of the other sports having wussy athletes. He gave his opinions, backed with some facts and why those facts were significant to his standards of a sport. I'm not saying don't write opinion articles, but I just thought this was a very well written, well thought out article that had very sound arguments that cover more angles than the just he lameness of the other sports. I stand by my comments.

For the record, I still believe that Baseball is indeed Jon's favorite sport.
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jeremy.jpgJeremy - 8968 Posts
11/18/2005 @ 04:38:34 PM
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I just liked the (sorry tennis!)
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question_mark.giffreakinout (Guest)
11/28/2005 @ 10:30:51 PM
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I really feel that you are forgetting a valuable, and even more international sport like.... the real football! In actuality, "futbol" is the true sport of the nations. I feel that you are a racist in the fact that you only mention those 3 sports that happen to be your favorite. In the future, I would like to see less racist comments.
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jeremy.jpgJeremy - 1.21 Gigawatts!?!?
11/28/2005 @ 11:09:00 PM
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Although Jon's scathing racism has been well documented; in this case we're talking about American sports. If you were to try and argue soccer is on par popularity wise with the big three mentioned above you would have a very short argument.


Also, for the record, Basketball is actually more popular worldwide than soccer in terms of participants. Since Jon's article focused alot on participating in basketball I thought I'd point that out. 

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2887.gificbeast - Refactor Mercilessly
01/02/2006 @ 12:19:04 AM
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I'm looking for some of my preseason Packer's comments and am having some difficulty because the Page3 search feature is worthless, and anyway I have a confession to make. Watching soccer actually isn't that bad. I remember staying up till like 2 or 4 in the morning watching the World Cup in 2002. I might even have taped a game or two to watch later. The Brazil team was amazingly good. And I'm actually excited for the World Cup this year. Hopefully the games are on at better times though cause it's a little harder to be up at the time of night with a job compared to college. My younger brothers have played soccer from grade school through high school so they both like to watch it so I've been watching it more lately too on Fox Sports World. Not that I really follow any particular league or anything. I think a lot of Americans just disavow soccer cause they either have never played, they suck at it, or they have a sports superiority complex issue. And I actually wrote this here just because it's probably the only place that references soccer on Page 3. But now that I think about it, soccer probably deserves to be included under the topic of this article. I'm not sure where I would actually rank soccer players athleticism, but certainly it's comparable to the other sports. They probably run more than the others and there is plenty of physical contact. There's less arm skills obviously, but it's hard to hit a header and not knock yourself out (trust me I've tried it). And be able to kick well with both feet and do bicycle kicks and stand with your hands over your jewels as a guy lines up to smoke a ball at you from 20 feet away. I would say that there is more uniformity and less pratical barriers too. All you need is a soccer ball basically, I spose some resemblance of a goal would help, but it's less important than a hoop in basketball. In fact there's a bunch of commercials out there with kids in the street kicking a ball around and having a jolly old time. Not very many people take a basketball and just go dribble around outside or pass it back and forth or something. And it's obviously and international game. It's an American sport too for that matter, we have a professional league, college teams, youth teams, and an international team. Plus, it's better than hockey.
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