Monday, June 12, 2006

Small Sports Big Time

America thinks it knows everything about sports. OK, we all know where there this is going. The US is playing the Czech Republic in soccer today and it's time for me to get on my high horse and tell everyone that all work should cease at 11:55 this morning.

Actually, this morning I am interested in American college sports. I am amazed how there are only two: football and basketball. At least only two that have their own pages on Only two whose full seasons are covered by cable television. Only two with any real clout in our Wide World of Sports. Outside of soccer, two incredible sporting events are transpiring within my close web of sports allegiances. The Carolina Hurricanes are up 2-1 in the Stanley Cup playoffs over the Edmonton Oilers (I watched game 3 this weekend and hockey is really sweet! But I will save that for later). And three (possibly 5) regional baseball teams have made it to the College World Series with my Clemson Tigers ranked #1 in the country. North Carolina and Georgia Tech also made it, while Miami and South Carolina have to win today.

While baseball certainly isn't an obscure sport (I can understand why college field hockey doesn't get much coverage), college baseball cannot begin to compare to college basketball and football. There is a large fanbase, the quality of play is excellent, and baseball is America's pastime. But the baseball draft comes and goes without even the blink of an eyelash, and there is never a nationally televised college baseball game until the super-regionals. In basketball, Duke playing Davidson in November is apparently important enough to have to show in California.

I was recently at a Davidson Copperheads game when this enigma of college baseball was unveiled before my eyes. First off, the Davidson Copperheads are a semi-pro baseball team made up of college players from around the region. There are dozens of summer leagues around the country where college kids can keep working on their game while playing with good competition and wooden bats. Suddenly, that's when it hit me. Actually, it was when the Copperhead's shortstop sawed off his bat on a fastball inside and the catcher stood at home plate and stared at the handle shard. It was like he was studying the Ten Commandments. Bats. Metal bats.

College baseball is unlike the other big two because it is so different from its professional equivalent. Watching Reggie Bush run over Stanford cornerbacks will never compare to the NFL, but he's running on grass with a football for 100 yards. The dimensions are the same. The technique is the same. Using metal bats in college baseball is nearly the equivalent of rubbing flubber to the bottom of ballers' shoes. The game is totally different and a college slugger may never be able to get the ball out of the infield in the major leagues with a wooden bat.

The question then becomes, "why are we cheating college players?" Why not give them the major league experience and make this sport a little more legitimate. know what comes next. The punchline that every good liberal is always forcing down someone else's throat. Money. It's all about money, and colleges don't have it. Well at least that is what we're told. Unfortunately, it is rarely the case that any entity with supposed financial strains (government, your company, the parents) actually doesn't have enough money. It is just that they don't want to spend it on you.

Every year, Davidson spends tons of money bringing in influential speakers and performers to half-filled auditoriums (Bill Kristol, Black Eyed Peas). While sometimes that money wouldn't necessarily be able to go to our athletic department, it is still being spent on unsuccessful ventures. Before you close your browser, I will admit that shelling out thousands of dollars for wooden bats would not necessarily change lives or our school or even our horrendous baseball attendance, but that money is more about priorities and less about quantity.

Anyway, I just thought you should know that I do care about more than football and basketball. I also care about college baseball, professional hockey and international soccer. We'll work on African AIDS and the environment next week.

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