Everything had been planned just so for President Obama’s July 6 campaign speech on the front lawn of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. Obama’s Oxford blue dress shirt was crisply cuffed. His Pittsburgh Pirates references were timed expertly. The loopy, cursive lettering of the campaign’s “Betting on America” billboard got several seconds of air-time on the local news. But the speech was marred by sweltering, 100-degree heat, something that no amount of planning could prevent.
Since the 1960s, professional football has supplanted baseball as our nation’s favorite sport—generating higher revenue and better television ratings. And, as the past few weeks have demonstrated, college basketball has captured the attention and diminished the productivity of the American workforce in ways baseball does not. But let’s not confuse popularity with superiority. Major League Baseball (MLB), the oldest spectator team sport in the nation, has become the most affordable and least exploitative one—and its labor relations are remarkably harmonious, too.
Tuesday, June 8 will hereafter be known as day one of the Stephen Strasburg era—when the freakishly talented pitcher/flaxen-haired-son-of-God-put-on-Earth-to-save-baseball-in-Washington made his first appearance in a Nationals uniform. As such, it was a resounding success: The 21-year-old phenom struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates en route to a seven-inning victory. That earned him not just a win, but a place in the record books—the single-game strikeout total was the highest ever for a Nat. It should have been a moment of pure celebration.