In following is in response to Phyllis McIntosh’s “A National Tradition” and Dave Etter’s “Baseball.”
The article by Phyllis McIntosh was published with the cooperation of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a part of the US Department of State, and states that “’As American as baseball and apple pie’ is a phrase Americans use to describe any ultimate symbol of life and culture in the United States.” I was never one to enjoy a good baseball game, but I did see evidence of its ‘iconization’ when I was growing up—I played T-ball as a kid. However I don’t see baseball as a very good “symbol of life,” actually I think it is just the opposite. Baseball is more of a platform to sell chewing tobacco, which has killed several star players over the years: Bill Tuttle, Babe Ruth, and many others. What is more unnerving is that the sell of this deadly product is targeted to teenagers. Professor Gregory Conolly at the Harvard School of Public Health says “the use of smokeless tobacco by players has a powerful role model effect on youth particularly among young males in sport, some of whom remain addicted in future careers as professional athletes. (Smith, Donna. “Smokeless Tobacco Use Rising Among Teens”. Reuters. April 28, 2010.)”
This reminds me of Etter’s flash prose piece, relevantly titled “Baseball,” where nine different baseball players—yes, that’s right, I counted them—are seen spitting dip. This short-short seems to imply the same paradoxical view of baseball being a symbol for life by starting the prose piece with “We stand for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ The home-plate umpire shouts ‘Play ball’!”—a traditional singing of the national anthem is followed by a round of baseball and tobacco spiting. Though there was a fight in Congress about whether this should continue, it resorted in baseball’s new labor deal in 2011 that only limits the use of smokeless tobacco by players, but doesn’t ban it during games (ESPN and associated press). While researching the extensive provisions of Obamacare, I will keep an eye out for what it might say about the use of chewing tobacco, especially as it is used in baseball.