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Article posted: 2/11/2013 5:30 AM

Focus turns to baseball, bringing Carlin to mind

By Mike Imrem

The transition from winter toward spring and football toward baseball is an annual reminder of the late, great humorist George Carlin.

Nobody articulated more insightfully the differences between the men's men and the boys of summer, between body counts and pitch counts, between football players playing injured and baseball players not always playing hurt.

"Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life. Football begins in the fall, when everything's dying."

Washington, D.C., has become the epicenter of the divergent attitudes of these two sports in the forms of Nationals' franchise pitcher Stephen Strasburg and Redskins' franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Strasburg, who had elbow surgery a couple years ago, was shut down last September so he wouldn't reinjure himself. Griffin, who suffered a knee injury late last regular season, limped around the field during a playoff game and afterward required major surgery.

By sitting Strasburg, the Nationals jeopardized an opportunity to get to the World Series last year ... and that's baseball in this era.

By playing Griffin, the Redskins jeopardized an opportunity to get to the Super Bowl this decade ... and that's football in any era.

"Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness. Baseball has the sacrifice."

Approaching retirement at 37 years of age after 17 NFL seasons, Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis wanted to end his career bashing heads in Super Bowl XLVII. Just days before the game he was accused of using a banned substance to rehab an injury.

The point isn't whether Lewis is guilty; it's that hardly anyone would be surprised if he is.

Baseball? Batters fake head colds to avoid hitting against particularly nasty pitchers.

"Football is concerned with downs -- what down is it? Baseball is concerned with ups -- who's up?"

Jim McMahon, the only Bears' quarterback to win a Super Bowl, is suffering from too many football blows to the head.

In advance of an interview with McMahon, Channel 2 during the Super Bowl telecast on CBS ran awkward promos that came across as a running gag about concussions.

Baseball? Players go on the disabled list not because they're injured but because they might get injured.

"Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park! Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium."

No wonder even some current football players say they wouldn't let their sons play football but baseball players rarely say they wouldn't want their sons to play baseball.

Baseball is the sport handed down from grandfathers to fathers to sons. Football is the sport currently trying to address players' safety issues to survive a couple more generations.

"In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! -- I hope I'll be safe at home!

It's the time of year for football warriors and barbarians to retreat and baseball's wimps and wusses to report for spring training.

All kidding aside, maybe football needs to be a lot more protective of players and baseball a little less protective.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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