Take Me Out To Church 2008 Revisit

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This is a presentation on the relationship between Major League Baseball and American Civil Religion. Originally presented at the Conference on Sport and Spirituality in York, England and updated at a 2008 conference in Washington, DC.

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Take Me Out To Church 2008 Revisit

  1. 1. Take Me Out to Church The National Pastime and the Transmission of American Civil Religion (An Update) Christopher Born The Catholic University of America Washington, DC
  2. 2. Outline <ul><li>(1) Outline civil religion as a phenomenon and parse out what is meant by the term. </li></ul><ul><li>(2) Examine the potential for professional baseball functioning as a civil religion itself or as a carrier of values consonant with civil religion. </li></ul><ul><li>(3) Determine whether professional baseball has functioned in the aforementioned capacity in the past and then discuss whether or not professional baseball lost its efficacy in transporting civil religious values. </li></ul><ul><li>(4) Update out look in response to the events of the last two years. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Ball signed by Pete Rose December 2005
  4. 4. “ Sports is, somehow, a religion.” – Michael Novak Jim Borgman, The Cincinnati Enquirer , March 30, 2008
  5. 5. Civil Religion – What is it? <ul><li>Folk religion </li></ul><ul><li>“ Transcendent universal religion of the nation” </li></ul><ul><li>Religious nationalism </li></ul><ul><li>Democratic faith </li></ul><ul><li>Protestant civic piety </li></ul>Richey, Russell E. and Donald G. Jones. “The Civil Religion Debate.” American Civil Religion . Edited by Russell E. Richey and Donald G. Jones. New York: Harper Forum Books, 1974. Gehrig, Gail. American Civil Religion: An Assessment . Storrs, CN: Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1979. Sports can be understood as “crucial social structures for the transmission and maintenance of America’s civil religion” (Philip E. Hammond) .
  6. 6. Baseball as folk religion civil religion Reprinted with permission. Jim Borgman, The Cincinnati Enquirer (31 March 2003).
  7. 7. Baseball as folk religion civil religion <ul><li>Three prime examples of baseball as folk religion civil religion (as defined by Warner) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Continuation of baseball during WWII </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yearly Opening Day ceremonies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Baseball after 9/11 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Robin Williams (quoted in Mathisen) : “Every functioning society has to an important degree a common religion. The profession of a set of ideas, rituals, and symbols that can supply an overarching sense of unity in a society riddled with conflicts.” </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Baseball as folk religion civil religion <ul><li>Continuation of baseball during WWII </li></ul><ul><ul><li>President Franklin Roosevelt: “I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lieutenant General Brehon Somervell: “I want to tell you how important a factor baseball is in the winning of the war. It has been said that the successes of the British army can be traced to the cricket fields of Eton, and I say the sandlots and big-league ballparks of America have contributed their share to our military success” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>National Anthem was played before every game to honor the troops </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Baseball as folk religion civil religion <ul><li>Yearly Opening Day ceremonies </li></ul>Reprinted with permission. Jim Borgman, Jim Borgman’s Cincinnati (1992)
  10. 10. Baseball as folk religion civil religion <ul><li>Baseball after 9/11 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig: “I believe that in the spirit of national recovery and return to normalcy, Major League Baseball, as a social institution, can best be helpful by resuming play at the most appropriate time.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Distribution of 400,000 American flags </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Changes in uniforms (hats and jerseys) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Addition of “God Bless America” to 7 th Inning “Stretch” </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Baseball as Protestant civic piety civil religion <ul><li>Richey and Jones: Protestant civic piety consists of a “Protestant moralism, individualism, activism (‘deeds not creeds’), hard work, religious liberty, democratic equality, [and] the quest for simplicity.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Christy “Christian Gentleman” Mathewson </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cal “Iron Man” Ripken, Jr. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pete “Charlie Hustle” Rose </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Catherine Bell, Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Sports and games can strengthen basic cultural values and desirable forms of social behavior, such as the importance of…teamwork and the efficacy of aggressive competition” (153-4). </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Baseball as Protestant civic piety civil religion <ul><li>Peter Edward Rose – “Charlie Hustle” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All-time hit leader (4,256) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>National League Rookie of the Year (1963) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3-time National League Batting Title (1968, 1969, 1973) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>National League MVP (1973) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>World Series MVP (1975) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gold Glove Award (1969, 1970) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hutch Award (1968) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lou Gehrig Award (1969) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Roberto Clemente Award (1976) </li></ul></ul>Reprinted with permission. Jim Borgman, The Cincinnati Enquirer (31 March 2002).
  13. 13. Baseball as Protestant civic piety civil religion <ul><li>Peter Edward Rose – “Charlie Hustler? ” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>On the field versus off the field </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Which matters more? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Role model” versus “hero” (Costas as noted in Price) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Banned from baseball for betting on games </li></ul><ul><li>Lied about gambling for 15+ years </li></ul><ul><li>Convicted for tax evasion and spent 5 months in prison </li></ul><ul><li>Abrasive, arrogant, and inconsiderate </li></ul><ul><li>Divorced </li></ul><ul><li>All-time hits leader (4,256) </li></ul><ul><li>All-Century Team </li></ul><ul><li>Selected by fans to 17 All-Star games </li></ul><ul><li>The Sporting News Player of the Decade (1970s) </li></ul><ul><li>44 consecutive game hitting streak </li></ul><ul><li>1970 All-Star Game </li></ul>Off the field On the field
  14. 14. Compromising the purity of the game <ul><li>Sacred versus Profane – defiling the sacred </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rose, “Black” Sox Scandals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Desacralization” of the game </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Does the idyllic vision of baseball’s past overlook the racial and economic underbelly of professional baseball? </li></ul><ul><li>Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti in response to the findings of the Dowd Report on Pete Rose’s gambling activities: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ One of the game's greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Various work stoppages </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1994-1995 was the most damaging by far </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The worst of times?
  16. 16. Associated Press , 1998 John Biever, 1998 Walter Iooss, Jr., 1998 Saviors of the National Pastime?
  17. 17. “ The Steroids Era” <ul><li>Richard Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, commented on the steroid problem in baseball: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ How would you like to take your son to a baseball game [and say], ‘My boy, someday, if you fill yourself with enough shit and can lie convincingly, you can play in your country’s national game.’” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At the start of the 2001 season, Selig was able to institute a comprehensive performance-enhancing drug policy in the minor leagues. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>11% of baseball’s nearly 2,000 players tested positive for anabolic steroids </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where do these players end up? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rick Reilly ( Sports Illustrated ) – this is the “cartoon era” of baseball </li></ul><ul><li>Did the wave of “cheating” undermined the integrity of the game? If so, could professional baseball still function in a civil religious capacity? </li></ul>
  18. 18. Gerald Herbert, The New York Times , 2005 Mark Wilson, Getty Images, 2005 Getty Images, 2005 Could this be worse?
  19. 19. Was baseball losing its effectiveness as moral transmitter? <ul><li>Fall-out of the “Steroids Era”? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Barry Bonds and the asterisks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>73 * (2001) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>762 (and counting?) * </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mark McGwire received only 24% of the vote for the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 and 2008 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jose Canseco’s insider’s confession, Juiced </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Raphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Ken Caminiti </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What does this mean for the new records? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not all people are playing by the rules…does this undermine the ritual-like activity of baseball (Bell)? </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Was baseball losing its effectiveness as moral transmitter? <ul><li>Baseball’s “Steroids Era” and civil religion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Price: Baseball reached its height of public acclamation in the Progressive Era </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Price cites Evans and Herzog: “Baseball became a symbol of postmillennial liberal Protestant zeal that contributed to the personal and social uplifting of all Americans.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>While it performed this effective function during the Progressive Era, does it still function this way? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can the purity of the national pastime be restored? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Trickle-down effect” of steroid use in MLB? </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Was baseball losing its effectiveness as moral transmitter? <ul><li>Which league has the biggest problem with cheating in all its various forms? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>65.6% Major League Baseball (MLB) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>25.6% National Football League (NFL) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7.8% National Basketball Association (NBA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1.0% National Hockey League (NHL) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Do you have faith that professional sports leagues will be able to rid their games of cheating in the near future? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>79.5% No </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>20.5% Yes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Total online votes: 85,352 </li></ul></ul></ul>Source: “Vote: What Does Cheating Mean to You?,” ESPN.com (10 August 2007).
  22. 22. Was baseball losing its effectiveness as moral transmitter? <ul><li>Can professional baseball still function as folk religion? </li></ul><ul><li>Can professional baseball still function as Protestant civic piety? </li></ul>
  23. 23. Was baseball losing its effectiveness as moral transmitter? <ul><li>Answer : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Professional Baseball as America’s “national pastime” may have served, at some time in the past, as a civil religion or as an effective carrier of civil religious values; however, the work-stoppage in 1994 (viewed as a feud between millionaires and billionaires over the fans’ hard-earned money) and the leak of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs into the game has undermined its ability to be a beacon of virtue, hard work, and integrity. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In short, the problems of performance enhancers in baseball desacralized a game that had been sacred for generations to the point that it lost its effectiveness as a moral transmitter in modern society. </li></ul></ul>Have the past two years changed anything?
  24. 24. Was baseball losing its effectiveness as moral transmitter?
  25. 25. Can baseball recapture its glory? <ul><li>2008 saw a significant decrease in offensive output over the previous seasons </li></ul>(1) Offensive Output 5.09 8740 5528 1999 4.81 8741 5064 1998 5.15 8902 5693 2000 4.63 8700 5059 2002 4.78 8813 5458 2001 4.74 8827 5207 2003 4.83 8919 5451 2004 4.61 8863 5017 2005 4.87 9135 5386 2006 4.81 9197 4957 2007 4.66 9008 4876 2008 Runs/ game 2Bs HR Year
  26. 26. Can baseball recapture its glory? <ul><li>2008 saw a significant decrease in the number of wins on the road. This may have been impacted by the ban of “greenies” or amphetamines in the game. </li></ul><ul><li>In the past, they were openly used to fight fatigue </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In 162 game seasons, fatigue will come up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Travel, late games, extra innings, bruises, etc. </li></ul></ul>(2) Home and Away Records
  27. 27. 11.07% 44.46% -8.77     55.53% 8.77     Averages 9.02% 34.57% -25 53 28 43.59% -10.00 44 34 San Diego 1.66% 43.21% -11 46 35 44.87% -8.00 43 35 San Francisco 13.34% 39.74% -16 47 31 53.09% 5.00 38 43 Colorado 15.72% 41.98% -13 47 34 57.69% 12.00 33 45 Arizona 14.39% 44.87% -8 43 35 59.26% 15.00 33 48 Los Angeles Dodgers 14.81% 33.33% -26 52 26 48.15% -3.00 42 39 Pittsburgh 13.34% 39.74% -16 47 31 53.09% 5.00 38 43 Cincinnati 5.75% 49.38% -1 41 40 55.13% 8.00 35 43 St. Louis 10.29% 48.15% -3 42 39 58.44% 13.00 32 45 Houston 9.64% 50.62% 1 40 41 60.26% 16.00 31 47 Milwaukee 14.65% 53.25% 5 36 41 67.90% 29.00 26 55 Chicago Cubs 10.45% 32.05% -28 53 25 42.50% -12.00 46 34 Washington 17.19% 35.90% -22 50 28 53.09% 5.00 38 43 Atlanta 7.50% 48.05% -3 40 37 55.56% 9.00 36 45 Florida 9.64% 50.62% 1 40 41 60.26% 16.00 31 47 NY Mets 3.37% 54.32% 7 37 44 57.69% 12.00 33 45 Philadelphia 8.93% 32.10% -29 55 26 41.03% -14.00 46 32 Seattle 11.53% 41.56% -13 45 32 53.09% 5.00 38 43 Oakland 1.95% 47.44% -4 41 37 49.38% -1.00 41 40 Texas 1.09% 61.73% 19 31 50 62.82% 20.00 29 49 LA Angels 2.04% 44.87% -8 43 35 46.91% -5.00 43 38 KC 6.22% 42.50% -12 46 34 48.72% -2.00 40 38 Detroit 11.97% 43.59% -10 44 34 55.56% 9.00 36 45 Cleveland 23.46% 43.21% -11 46 35 66.67% 26.00 26 52 Minnesota 23.02% 43.21% -11 46 35 66.23% 25.00 26 51 Chicago White Sox 8.48% 38.27% -19 50 31 46.75% -5.00 41 36 Baltimore 10.59% 47.44% -4 41 37 58.02% 13.00 34 47 Toronto 9.26% 50.00% 0 39 39 59.26% 15.00 33 48 NY Yankees 22.36% 48.15% -3 42 39 70.51% 32.00 23 55 Boston 20.37% 50.00% 0 39 39 70.37% 33.00 24 57 Tampa Bay H/A Differece AWin % Diff Away Ls Away Ws HWin % Diff Home Ls Home Ws Team (2008 thru 9/25)
  28. 28. 4.80% 47.64% -3.83     52.43% 3.93     Averages -11.11% 54.32% 7 37 44 43.21% -11.00 46 35 San Diego 9.88% 50.62% 1 40 41 60.49% 17.00 32 49 San Francisco 11.11% 39.51% -17 49 32 50.62% 1.00 40 41 Colorado 4.94% 54.32% 7 37 44 59.26% 15.00 33 48 Arizona 2.47% 51.85% 3 39 42 54.32% 7.00 37 44 Los Angeles Dodgers 17.28% 29.63% -33 57 24 46.91% -5.00 43 38 Pittsburgh -14.81% 48.15% -3 42 39 33.33% -27.00 54 27 Cincinnati 17.10% 48.75% -2 41 39 65.85% 26.00 28 54 St. Louis -6.17% 60.49% 17 32 49 54.32% 7.00 37 44 Houston 4.94% 39.51% -17 49 32 44.44% -9.00 45 36 Milwaukee 9.88% 49.38% -1 41 40 59.26% 15.00 33 48 Chicago Cubs 0.00% 41.98% -13 47 34 41.98% -13.00 47 34 Montreal -9.88% 59.26% 15 33 48 49.38% -1.00 41 40 Atlanta 20.91% 36.59% -22 52 30 57.50% 12.00 34 46 Florida 7.41% 46.91% -5 43 38 54.32% 7.00 37 44 NY Mets 9.88% 48.15% -3 42 39 58.02% 13.00 34 47 Philadelphia -2.47% 72.84% 37 22 59 70.37% 33.00 24 57 Seattle 4.94% 60.49% 17 32 49 65.43% 25.00 28 53 Oakland 8.02% 41.98% -13 47 34 50.00% 0.00 41 41 Texas 3.70% 44.44% -9 45 36 48.15% -3.00 42 39 Anaheim Angels 6.17% 37.04% -21 51 30 43.21% -11.00 46 35 KC 9.88% 35.80% -23 52 29 45.68% -7.00 44 37 Detroit -2.32% 57.32% 12 35 47 55.00% 8.00 36 44 Cleveland 11.11% 46.91% -5 43 38 58.02% 13.00 34 47 Minnesota 11.11% 45.68% -7 44 37 56.79% 11.00 35 46 Chicago White Sox -3.24% 40.74% -15 48 33 37.50% -20.00 50 30 Baltimore -1.22% 50.00% 0 40 40 48.78% -2.00 42 40 Toronto 10.24% 54.32% 7 37 44 64.56% 23.00 28 51 NY Yankees -0.63% 51.25% 2 39 41 50.62% 1.00 40 41 Boston 14.81% 30.86% -31 56 25 45.68% -7.00 44 37 Tampa Bay H/A Diff AWin % Diff Away Ls Away Ws HWin % Diff Home Ls Home Ws Team (2001)
  29. 29. Can baseball recapture its glory? <ul><li>2008 maintained an increase in attendance, despite the ailing economy cuts on extravagances </li></ul>Strike Years HR Chase Steroid hangover Clean comeback? (3) Attendance
  30. 30. Can baseball recapture its glory? <ul><li>Have we moved beyond the moniker: “Chicks dig the long ball”? </li></ul><ul><li>Could it be that fans of the game are actually interested in maintaining the integrity and purity of the game? </li></ul><ul><li>A new slogan: “Clean it up, and they will come!” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Notable absence of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2008 Tampa Bay Rays, LA Angels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cliff Lee, 22-2 record </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>AL MVP Candidate 2B Dustin Pedroia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>.324 AVG, 17 HRs, 80 RBIs, 116 Runs </li></ul></ul></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Finally… </li></ul><ul><li>What do you think? </li></ul><ul><li>Have we seen a significant enough paradigm shift in baseball that may allow it to retake its stand as a carrier of the American civil religious values? </li></ul>

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