Eric DeBerardinis the Sports Director at WYLN-TV in Hazleton, covering all that Northeastern Pennsylvania has to offer. He is a 2014 graduate of Penn State University and is originally from outside of Philadelphia.
“Yeah, errr, si!”
“Sabes Chapman, Cespedes, Morales?”
“How do I say this? I know who they are, but I don’t KNOW them.”
That’s a sampling of my most frequent conversation from a trip to Cuba two years ago. The exchange always concerned America’s pastime. And it makes sense, for a country stuck in the past.
Pastime can be simply defined as a “hobby,” but it’s more appropriately a hobby that defines something. In this case, that something, is a big land mass.
Third grade teachers stress the difference of homophones, “past” and “passed,” but in this regard, the words serve the same purpose.
Examining the history of what we consider the “Big 4” sports in America, baseball has the longest ‘past’. The first baseball game was played in 1846, nearly three decades before the first hockey game (1875), three-plus decades before football and four-plus before basketball. The advantage of time and the exposure due to time is a huge benefit.
Examining the very nature of baseball, it’s a sport that literally passed time. No clock, no ties, non-stop for six months out of the year. Since the start of the 20th century, Major League Baseball regular seasons have consisted of somewhere between 140 and 162 games.
That everyday presence is essential to the growth and popularity baseball experienced from the sport’s infancy, even up until now. For half a year, baseball was and still can be a rallying point and a talking point. “Your” team serves as a unifying force that dictates emotions and updates on a daily basis.
That consistency also symbolizes America, because baseball is relatable and baseball is blue-collar. You have a bad day, go out, work hard, and try to make the next one better. You lose a game, in less than 24 hours, there is the chance to improve, and win.
Follow me with this…In a stand up special, South African comedian Trevor Noah, characterized sports in America by saying, “I’ve never seen more focus put on sports than anywhere else in the world.
“Americans love their sports back to front.
“You analyze them.
“You worship them.
“You watch the game before the game.
“You watch the game after the game.
“You talk about what might happen in the game.
“You talk about what’s happening in the game.
“You talk about what happened in the game, and what could have and might have, but didn’t happen in the game.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve seen in my life.”
That’s what sports do, here.
That’s what sports mean, here. And when we started ‘that’, baseball took a more than comfortable lead off first, compared to others.
The media, as always, certainly played a role in developing the “America’s pastime” reputation and America’s reputation for “putting more focus on sports than anywhere else in the world”.
The comprehensive analysis began with newspapers and letters to newspaper editors and barbershop chats about what was written in newspapers. Baseball certainly translates well to radio, because the inaction of a nine-inning affair outweighs the action. There’s the pitch, and there’s a 30-second conversation related or unrelated until the next pitch.
Just like the conversations people would have if at a game.
Before America became a country of sub-cultures, baseball was adopted as the common culture.
In Havana, the association was clear. While my lack of personal friendship with Cuban’s finest baseball exports may have been a letdown, the ensuing Phillies photos stored on my iPhone and a toss with a tennis ball I carried with me, were not.
Even out of America, baseball was America.