Monday, June 23, 2008

A Bright Light Has Gone Out

By Josh Elwell

Yesterday, George Carlin died. Not only was he one of the best stand-up actsaround, but the guy could write about sports, too.

Here's an excerpt from his 1997 book, Brain Droppings:

Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, inmost sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In mostsports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; inbaseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense isallowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive playertouches the ball intentionally, he's out; sometimes unintentionally, he'sout.

Also: in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports playedwith a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents youfrom scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by amanager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the sameclothing the players do. If you'd ever seen John Madden in his OaklandRaiders uniform, you'd know the reason for this custom.

Now, I've mentioned football. Baseball & football are the two most popularspectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to beable to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.

Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park!

Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called SoldierField or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.

Football begins in the fall, when everything's dying.

In football you wear a helmet.

In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs ‹ what down is it?

Baseball is concerned with ups ‹ who's up?

In football you receive a penalty.

In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.

In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, latehitting and unnecessary roughness.

Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog...

In baseball, if it rains, we don't go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.

Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end ‹ might haveextra innings.

Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to suddendeath.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there's kind of a picnicfeeling; emotions may run high or low, but there's not too muchunpleasantness.

In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at leasttwenty-seven times you're capable of taking the life of a fellow humanbeing.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the fieldgeneral, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense byhitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if hehas to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches histroops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustainedground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy'sdefensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe!

I hope I'll be safe.

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