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Five lessons baseball can learn from football

The NFL is the most popular league in America and it's not particularly close. What practices can baseball glean from America's new pastime?


We are entrenched in football season. The NFL is halfway through their regular season and Michigan and Michigan State have recently completed their annual slap fight. In America football is king and baseball is left to look back at its once lofty position with nostalgia.

People have been comparing and contrasting football and baseball as long as humans have been hitting rocks with sticks and giving each other concussions by running into each other [citation needed]. The most famous example is this classic George Carlin routine, required viewing for any sports fan. It is clear the two sports are very different, but what insights can baseball steal from our sporting big brothers? CUE SLIDESHOW!

1. Player introductions

Baseball needs better player introductions. Have you seen the intros in football? Guys are running through giant inflatable animal mouths, bounding through showers of confetti, and hip-shaking to booming hip-hop. They are slapping themselves on the chest and yelling as spittle sprays from their cro-magnon mouths. If you are lucky the guys in a baseball starting line-up might jog out to form a polite line and give a half-hearted wave. Shoot, the most important player in the game, the starting pitcher, isn't even with the rest of the team. He's hidden in a separate area where no one can see him and doesn't bother to acknowledge the crowd. Would it destroy a starter's preparation to pause between throws and give a fist pump!?

2. Keep the game moving

The proper pace of baseball has been argued to death. It is true that part of the beauty of baseball is its own patient rhythms. It has no clock, no limit to time outs, etc., but a slow game isn't sacred or traditional, it is a modern heresy. History books describe a vibrant, fast-paced game. I don't think it's unreasonable to implement some simple rules to counteract the modern strategy of taking an ever increasing amounts of pitches. One simple change might be to require batters to keep one foot in the batter's box after taking a pitch. Adjust your batting gloves all you want, do your spit and clap, whatever, just don't wander around the plate like you're out for a stroll. Stay focused and get back in the box! I don't care if a game goes extra innings or takes 3-4 hours, but the pace of play should be brisk.

3. Splashes of color

Football is spectacle. NFL teams have pirate ships, men dressed as purple vikings, and cheerleaders shaking their boobs in front of the camera. Baseball, while embracing its pastoral roots, can add some pizzazz. Laugh at the Marlins all you want, but I think their new look is brilliant. You watch a Marlins home game on TV and you know where they are playing.

How about adding more color? A few more alternate and throwback jerseys! Let fans hang big banners over the wall. More special cheering sections. Sports are not just beautiful and nostalgic, they are also FUN.

4. Let the players express some emotion

The NFL has been dubbed the No Fun League for cracking down on touchdown celebrations and fining players for personal expression. Even with this dowdy reputation the NFL is a ton more emotional than MLB. Unwritten rules be damned! Let the guys have some fun. If hitters want to pimp home runs, let them pimp. If a pitcher wants to kiss a ball before throwing it to first base, I'm all for it!

5. Leave the home plate collision play alone

This last one is the toughest for me to say, because I don't necessarily agree with it. But, if we are to learn from football, we have to let home plate collisions occur. Football has visceral excitement because on any given play a guy might get hurt, end his season, or even worse. Football has replaced boxing as the modern blood sport. Consciously or unconsciously fans get ramped up by the danger.

In baseball there is relatively few home plate collisions compared to the number of games played. Contrast that with how man kick-off returns there are per football game. Sure, there are Buster Posey style injuries, but that might be the price that must be paid for these exciting plays. Were you or were you not entertained when Brayan Pena took that brutal shot at the plate in Seattle?

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