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[Opinion] Political Logic of Major League

Posted November. 07, 2001 10:50,   


The U.S. professional baseball game could not avoid the shock of the terrorist attacks. Most of the Minor League games hurriedly finished the schedule, omitting the postseason, and the Major League also completed the World Series one week later than the scheduled. It was unusual that the air-force plane made scouting flight over the skies of Phoenix and New York in case of another incident.

However, in the midst of this, the value of baseball seemed distinctive. Terrorist attacks took place at the end of the pennant race of the Major League. The Major League consoled the American people through Barry Bonds` the season record of the most home runs this year and the Seattle Marriners` record high in tie. Regardless of the content of the game and victory or defeat, the professional baseball seems to have contributed to inspire the national pride and promote the national unity.

`God Bless America` resounded during the exchange of batting and fielding on the 7th throughout the postseason games. Especially, the fact that the U.S. President George W. Bush pitched in the 3rd game of the World Series in the Yangkee`s stadium where the U.S. Flag, which was mercilessly attacked while being displayed at the World Trade Center, was transferred, was a national ritual which made the wellness and will of the U.S. known to the world. Moreover, the ball President Bush pitched was strike.

In fact, baseball is a national sport in the U.S. The first day of spring in the U.S. is the opening of the professional baseball games, and winter begins the next day of the end of the World Series. It is not coincidental that history of the U.S. and the growing process of the professional baseball overlap since the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. First of all, history of the U.S. and cultural characteristics are deeply dissolved in the baseball game. Rational game rules and fair judge correspond to the principle of `the rule of law`, and the structural bisection of the number of innings between the two teams is equal to the ideology of `equal opportunity`.

Moreover, the professional baseball, which provided popular leisure to the laborers during the early stage of the industrialization, not only sublimated the class conflict, but also contributed to promote the national unity through the sports competition based on regional affinity since the Civil War.

The integration of the black and the white at the Major League had already begun 20 year earlier than the Civil Rights Movement, which began in a full-scale at the end of the 1960s. Professional baseball played the role of textbook to learn the American life in the U.S., the country of immigrants. In this sense, the Major League is close to an ideology that unites the U.S. citizens while promoting capitalism and democratic values.

Although the Major League highlighted its social function during the process of overcoming the shock of the terrorist attacks, the internal condition is full of problems.

The number of fans who visit the baseball stadium has decreased for the last 10 years. The audience rating of the professional baseball games is distinctively lower not only than the football games but also than the basketball games. Among many analyses of such cause, such as long-term game time, introduction of the designated hitter system, and commercial advertisement, the core analysis is that the game itself becomes less interesting because the superiority and inferiority of power among teams is too clear from the beginning.

This is the natural result of the differences among the Major League owners. For example, the budget difference between the most affluent team and the poorest team increased 20:1 last year from 4:1 ten years ago. No Major League team in which the average annual salary of the players is under the 7th has played in the World Series since 1995. After all, as the Major League has united with the `monopoly capitalism`, it brings the stagnation of popularity on itself.

An alternative is the globalization of the Major League. The `exploration of market` by the Major League targets the global community. Entertainment and profit provided by the import players with `good quality-lower price` are not insignificant. However, it is unknown what the ultimate meaning of the imperialistic world domination of the U.S. baseball would be. The cost of `spreading` the Major League to the world by assigning the talented players of each country into the Major League is the shrink and desolation of the local baseball market on the periphery. Of course, this is disadvantageous to the long-term structural reproduction of the Major League. Humiliation and the glory of `Byung-Hyun Kim`, the youngest star of Diamondbacks, carry the light and shadow of the Major League together.

Jeon Sang-In (Professor of Sociology at Hanrim University. Current visiting Professor of Washington University, U.S.)