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Is baseball an inherently conservative sport?

Sep 3, 2010, 4:00 PM EDT

Is baseball a conservative sport? A liberal sport? The answer from this alleged commie pinko may surprise you.

The Daily Caller spoke with a bunch of conservative writers who identify themselves as serious baseball fans and asked them “what draws the conservative mind to the sport.”

Among the responders were Fred Schwarz, Daniel Foster and Rich Lowry of National review, Charles Krauthammer and they threw in some older quotes from George Will for spice. The upshot: baseball is slow, it doesn’t change much and, according to Schwarz anyway, “it has
more of a laws-and-not-men vibe, in the sense that penalties or fouls
or violations called by officials play a much smaller role in baseball
than they do in football, basketball, or hockey.”

Not sure I buy that last one inasmuch as every single pitch in baseball entails a judgment call that is subjective in practice, even if it isn’t in theory.  But yeah, I’ve heard all of these things before as I’m sure some of the rest of you have too.

Here’s my thing on baseball and politics: it’s an almost total escape from that stuff.  Sure, there are some political considerations that go into how you feel about labor issues, finances and maybe even PEDs, but as far as the game itself is concerned, politics is almost wholly irrelevant, at least compared to almost any other walk of life.

It’s anecdotal, but here’s an example: While I greatly exaggerate my flamin’ pink liberalness for comedic effect at times, I’m definitely a lefty on most issues. It’s just how I roll. The Baseball Crank, Dan McLaughlin, is about the staunchest conservative who has ever crossed my path in the baseball world. We both get political on Twitter from time to time (he has a far more professional interest in it than I do, however) and I dare say we disagree about 95% of the time when it comes to politics and policy and stuff. Add this to the mix: he’s a Mets fan.

But he’s a baseball fan and I’m a baseball fan. He’s also a baseball analyst whose analysis I agree with approximately 95% of the time. I’ve never met him in person, but I am certain that if he and I went to a ballgame together we’d have a hell of a time. At least if we made a rule not to talk about mosque location theory, tax policy, gay marriage and stuff like that.

Which is to say that I don’t think baseball lends itself to the conservative disposition or the liberal disposition any more so than it does the other. To the extent anyone thinks it does, they’re likely the kind of person who strains to see the political in everything, and those people are freakin’ nuts to begin with.

Like the man said: “it’s our game. The American, Asian and increasingly European game.”  Well, he didn’t say that, actually, but he would today because, while partisans of every stripe like to claim that they’re truly speaking for the masses, baseball is the biggest damn tent there is.

  1. OldNo7 - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    Glenn Beck, Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols agree that baseball is completely nonpartisan.

  2. Largebill - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    While I’m a big baseball fan and pretty conservative, I have come to the conclusion that more baseball fans lean far left than right. Or maybe it is just the ones who frequent internet sites. Let any current hot button political issue show up at Baseball Primer and you’ll see the libs outnumber the rational folks by a 4 to 1 ratio. Just a week ago on this site, there was an article about Albert Pujols receiving some goofy award from Glenn Beck and Pujols and LaRussa were soundly denounced by all but one or two commenters. The responses to almost any subject are fairly predictable.
    If you think enforcing our immigration laws isn’t a bad idea they declare you’re a xenophobic racist.
    If you think marriage should be limited to one man and one woman (not too closely related) you’re a hateful homophobe.
    On almost every issue instead of actually debating the facts or the merits or faults of their opponents arguments they resort to labeling the opposition with some pejorative.

  3. Matt S. - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    “To the extent anyone thinks it does, they’re likely the kind of person who strains to see the political in everything, and those people are freakin’ nuts to begin with.”
    Keeping with your 95% observation, I’d like to think that that the 5% of the population on either end of the spectrum are 95% of the American political voice. That’s pretty sad in itself.
    Keep politics out of my baseball. That means you, TLR.

  4. Matt S. - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    By the way, I do think baseball is inherently conservative, along with the majority of American professional sports. For the most part, sports teams are owned by old, rich white men. Old, rich white men tend to lean right. It’s just the facts, Jack.

  5. Jonny5 - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    Politics should never be spoken of unless you’re itching for a fight or argument. Or both. I love the game. And I am a non denominational conservative mind with libertarian tendencies. Yes I’m now seeking help for this affliction. But really how conservative is the right anyway? not so much. And how about that whole liberty thing? not so much either. I fit nowhere. I am a lost political soul who will not support the lesser of two evils.

  6. RichardInBigD - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    I tend to be a political scizophrenic (sp?) in the real world. I believe in the death penalty and gay marriage, legalizing victimless crimes and prayer (or at least the ten commandments) in public schools. And I am ostracized by acquaintences from both sides of the spectum for not picking one side or the other and sticking with it. My issue with that is, there are idiots, and therefore idiotic ideas, on both sides of the political fence, and I prefer to consider each issue on its own merits, and do a balance sheet for each one and decide what I think is best for that situation. In a lot of ways, baseball is very similar to that way of thinking. You don’t swing for the fences at every pitch. The situation before you even enter the batter’s box helps determine that. Runners on? Score? Inning? Do I bunt, go punch and judy or let ‘er rip? It depends! If you’re pitching, you have to ask “Does this guy have bat speed? Can I blow the heat by him? Can he hit a breaking ball?” Sometimes you run through first at full speed, sometimes you round towards second. and once in a while you slide head first. Different actions for different situations. Just like life. ANd the very best ballplayers, just like the very best people, know what to do when…

  7. okobojicat - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    I think this is an idiotic statement for the simple fact that most rational people who would argue back against the torrent of people who criticized Beck/Pujols/Larussa (ie people like me) simply didn’t care enough to get involved. Using only people who care enough to respond on internet message boards as your guiding light for generalizing across the entire spectrum is quite silly.
    .
    I’m a liberal, I don’t like Beck AT ALL. I thought the award was silly. The event tried so hard to be non-partisan so that it could claim butt hurt when the Libs over-reacted – which they did. But there is no reason for Pujols not to go. He was getting an award. Larussa has said some stuff I disagree with, but there’s no reason for him not to be there to introduce the greatest player of the generation. People like me didn’t get involved because it was an dumb discussion and we didn’t care enough to say anything.
    .
    I don’t think enforcing immigration law is xenophobia. Most libs think the law in Arizona is xenophobic because of (yeah, I’m not going into it – that would take forever).
    .
    I do think you’re a hateful homophobe if you don’t want to give same sex partners the same rights as different sex partners. That’s what you are by definition because you are using the government to exclude someone from society. That’s what the Jim Crow laws did. Call it civil unions – whatever – but why can’t they have the same rights?!?
    .
    Baseball is not conservative or liberal. A lot of baseball players are pretty conservative and some are pretty liberal. A lot of fans are liberal and conservative. Probably fans at ball parks are more liberal than the average American because ballparks are in cities and cities – on average, are more liberal than rural/suburban areas of the US. Fans sitting infront of their tv watching in rural Kansas (like me!) or in rural Washington are probably pretty conservative. Just because Seattle is a liberal city doesn’t mean the fans over in Spokane are libs.
    .
    “cool story bro” time.
    My dad used to be a politician and in an attempt to get an endorsement, a politician (I’ll let you guess who) gave our family some awesome seats on the Green Monster he got from his friend JH. Sitting next to us that night was a George P Bush. My dad and Bush chatted for hours about politics (I was too absorbed in the game to listen/care much) and about baseball and about football and about weather and about Jeremy Roenick (he was up there as well). Baseball isn’t one or the other. Its a sport. It has followers of all faiths, from Billy Sunday to the Marx Bros!

  8. YANKEES1996 - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    I never really thought about it until I read the article on LaRussa, Pujols and Beck. I have always considered myself to be open-minded on most issues and that is primarily because of the job I have done for the last 25 years. However, if baseball is a conservative sport and I am not a baseball fan I am a baseball JUNKIE then maybe it is time to re-evaluate my views on some issues. When it comes to voting I am completely non-partisan, I try to pick the person who has good ideas and does not seem to lie inherently(good luck picking them out, right!), but as with our political leaders I think the leaders of baseball are the same, if the leaders are conservative I guess the game is also.

  9. Josh in DC - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    Baseball is most popular in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Are we going to argue whether Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are liberal? Football is most popular in the deep south.
    Are we really arguing this? The liberal bastions of this country love baseball. The conservatives areas don’t watch it.

  10. Josh in DC - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Baseball fans who read sites with any sort of objective analysis tend to be liberals. Sarah Palin would have no use for VORP. I wouldn’t make any judgment about fans in general. I think baseball fans tend to be older than the population at large, and thus are more conservative. But it’s a correlation with age. Based on geography (hello, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia), baseball is more popular wherever there are more liberals, and football is more popular where there are fewer libraries.

  11. RichardInBigD - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Jonny, there’s nothing wrong with your tendencies, and you don’t need help with this “affliction”, as you call it. I saw your post after I hit send on mine, and I tend to agree more with libertarians than either staunch left or right leaners, although I agree with both of them about eaqually (maybe a little more frequently left) on different subjects…

  12. okobojicat - Sep 3, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    This is kind of silly because all cities are inhernetly more liberal than conservative areas. Your conservative rural areas in Massachusetts or Connecticut will be more conservative than your cities in Alabama or Mississippi or Texas. When you compare cities to rural areas, that’s where you create the distinctions. Also, baseball is popular in those cities because they win. Baseball was popular in Houston and Texas and Arizona when they won as well.

  13. RichardInBigD - Sep 3, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Very good point. I am like a fish out of water here in Texas in a lot of ways. Moved here from NJ 20+ years ago, grew up with parents who were card carrying ACLU supporters, and made the mistake of marrying a woman whose family was convinced that Bill Clinton was a Communist and Barack is a Muslim terrorist. I grew up loving the Mets, and am now surrounded by Cowboys freaks that couldn’t care less if a guy is innocent or guilty, as long as they get to execute someone…

  14. JBerardi - Sep 3, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    I find that the PED issue divides down conservative/liberal lines fairly neatly, and in way, demonstrates the different mindsets at play. The conservative thinking seems to be “guys did steroids, guys got big, guys hit home runs because of that, it’s wrong, and therefor they need to be punished, Q.E.D”. They deal in absolutes over gray areas, and ideology over objective reality. We know for sure who the bad people are and they must be punished. Whereas, on the liberal side of things, there tends to be a lot more nuance. There’s new stadiums and the bats changed and the ball may have really changed plus what about pitchers doing them and why are people more outraged about stars doing them then minor leagues and such and so on and so on. There’s less of an absolutist nature, and we tend to look more at systematic biases in addition to personal responsibility. Punishment isn’t a moral imperative, just one tool that can be used to get better outcomes. There’s an understanding that, in a human system, things are never going to be perfect.

    You can parallel this to something like the debate over abstinence-only sex education. The conservative view is that underage/premarital sex is absolutely wrong and they’re going to absolutely stop it, period. Whereas with liberals, it’s an approach that’s less concerned with abstract rules and ideologies and more concerned with the objective realities of human behavior. Again, it’s about getting the best possible outcomes within that flawed, human framework, as opposed to trying to force reality into conformation with a predetermined ideology. There’s an acknowledgment that you’re never going to stop the human sex drive with a couple of federally mandated classes… just you’re never going to fix the record books with an asterisk. Ultimately, it all comes down to the battle of belief versus reason. I suppose you can guess where I stand on that one.

  15. Lans Downe - Sep 3, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    That’s pretty narrow. I’m conservative and generally find your point of ideology vs. objective reality to be the opposite. The difference is I recognize your position. I always try to consider influence and subtleties, as well rely on facts, but also acknowledge there are times I don’t. Doesn’t your expressed rigid perspective run counter to being open minded?
    And still, we both come here. Baseball really is great.

  16. JBerardi - Sep 3, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    My definition of “open minded” doesn’t involve accepting everything, just that I understand something as a prerequisite for rejecting it.

    To be fair, I don’t know that the ideology vs. objective thing is necessarily true of all conservatives at all times in all places. But as far as modern, American, Fox News-Rush Limbaugh-Sarah Palin conservatism… yes, I think they’re COMPLETELY driven by ideology. Or epistemic closure, if you prefer.

    I’m also curious to know what ideologies liberals are clinging to, because other than the circular firing squad, I don’t know of any.

  17. ralf80 - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Liberals and conservatives both like baseball. This is a good thing, and I’d hate to see it become the domain of one side or another. As we get more politically divided, it becomes more important to have things we can agree are unquestionably great about this country. When I sit next to a stranger at a game, I don’t care what he thinks of Glenn Beck or Hillary Clinton. I want to know whether I can have an intelligent conversation about baseball with him.
    I personally disagree with almost everything George Will says in his newspaper columns, but his baseball book “Men at Work” is one of my favorites. The idea that you can think someone is wrong about one thing but right about something else seems to be losing ground as political TV pundits and bloggers get louder and louder.
    Let’s try to remember that gay marriage and bank bailouts have nothing to do with pennant races and exciting prospects.

  18. Old Gator - Sep 4, 2010 at 2:28 AM

    Men at Work is a wonderful book, even the chapter on Tony LaRussa, and I think George Will, whose name has occasionally been mentioned as a successor to Bud Light, would make a terrific commissioner. So you see, I’m willing to forgive baseball fans who are conservative for being conservative. When the revolution comes, I will see to it that their deaths are quick and painless.

  19. Ditto65 - Sep 4, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    Too many words.

  20. SouthofHeaven - Sep 4, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    Coming up next on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, a Special Comment on why the idea that baseball is a conservative sport is total horse$#!+.

  21. Kelly - Sep 4, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    I agree with the “rich white guys” tend to be more conservative, as do people who deal in the amount of money being thrown around MLB for players, managers, etc. Also – we should throw in the high rate of Christianity/fundamentalism that seems to exist amongst players and which predominantly suggests conservatism.
    But I do agree with Craig and others…as someone who is essentially as socialist, I am still able to absolutely discuss baseball with my polar opposite, as long as we never breach the barriers into the real world. I have no interest in the real world during September pennant races (particularly in an election year when I really just want everyone to stop talking and do something productive) and I think the majority of people would be better served to distract themselves with something OTHER than political message boards. Distractions are where the joys in life are.
    In any case, may all fans bless baseball forever and ever. :-)

  22. Old Gator - Sep 4, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    Too little syntax.

  23. Old Gator - Sep 4, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Told with a straight face, no less. It’s tough to watch someone you agree with most of the time when he doesn’t seem to know how to crack a smile, isn’t it?

  24. Old Gator - Sep 4, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    I know what you mean. I’m slightly to the left of Trotsky myself, although I doubt if I would stoop to killing a night with Frieda Kahlo. Anyway, I had a wonderful conversation with Mussolini about Joe DiMaggio and Tony Lazzeri before he was hauled out of his cell, taken to the courtyard and clotheslined by Gaby Sanchez. That’s the nice thing about baseball: it’s a lot like Tom Lehrer’s song “National Brotherhood Week.” The game only lasts about three hours, all things being equal (even though they rarely are to conservatives), and it should be possible to stand an ideologically constipated right-winger’s company for that much time, at least.

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