Soccer vs. baseball: The iSchool answers the great debate


Zach Kaplan and Elias Swift

Writer’s Note: This intro is meant to make clear that the one thing that baseball and soccer have in common are their fair share of exciting moments.

It was October 16, 2003, the date of the ultimate matchup between the Yankees and the Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. MVP and 7 time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens took the hill for the Yankees at the ripe old age of 40 years old. Standing on the hill for the Red Sox was Hall of Famer and 3 time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. Jason Giambi homered twice off of Martinez, driving in both runs for the Yankees in the first eight innings, and the Yankees trailed 5-2 in the 8th. The Yankees would go on to tie the game with a 3-run rally in the 8th thanks to an RBI by Bernie Williams and a two-RBI single by Jorge Posada.

This set it up for an extra-innings nail biter, which led to the 11th inning when Aaron Boone stepped to the plate. Boone launched a first pitch, hanging pitch deep into the left field stands to send the Yankees onward to the 2003 World Series, which would cap off a 4-run unanswered streak. (Boone would later tear his ACL during an offseason basketball game, ending his career but that’s beside the point.)

When it comes to soccer, there have been a few moments that the whole world will remember. For instance, Mario Gotze’s goal in 117th minute of the 2014 World Cup final which won the World Cup for Germany. There was Andres Iniesta’s World Cup-winning strike for Spain in 2010. However, let’s talk about a famous club moment in Manchester City’s history.

In May of 2012, on the last game of the Premier League season, Manchester City and Manchester United were tied for first place. Manchester United had already won their last game, so Manchester City desperately needed a win. They were down 2-1 against QPR in the 90th minute. Edin Dzeko scored a glancing header to bring them back in the title race. At this point, there were only two more minutes left of extra time. Manchester City were just sending the ball up the field, hoping for a last-minute tap-in. QPR was playing with a strong defensive unit. The ball fell to Sergio Aguero, who cut passed one defender. Then, he played the ball into the path of Mario Balotelli, who laid it off back to Aguero. With 30 seconds remaining, and the Man City fans heartbroken, but still hopeful, Sergio Aguero took one more touch around another defender inside the box. With one snap of a shot, Martin Tyler, the commentator screamed, “AGUEROOOOOOOOOOOOO!” as the ball thumped into the back of the net. “I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again,” Tyler continued during his broadcast. Etihad Stadium exploded with roars and celebration, and Manchester City were crowned champions of England.

The point is, one of the only things baseball and soccer have in common is their fair share of electric moments, of which there have been plenty.  

Baseball is a more laid back sport, where fans have to really appreciate the culture and history of the sport to truly enjoy a game. A baseball game is a very romantic place to go. Soccer is exciting and electric, where passionate fans all around the world chant and scream for 90 minutes. Soccer is played around the world, whereas baseball is popular mainly in America, Latin America, and Eastern Asia (Japan, Korea, etc). Soccer stadiums are probably more iconic than baseball stadiums, Camp Nou of FC Barcelona is incredible, and it houses way more people than baseball. If you want to, you can take a look at some of the best ballparks in America, or some of the best soccer stadiums in the world.

Aside from the stadiums and the pace of the game, the main debate is centered around not only which sport is more entertaining, but also what sport is more popular and fun to play. It’s a struggle to find someone who likes both baseball and soccer. If you like baseball, you most likely dislike soccer, and vise versa.

Regardless of the evidence used, you can’t tell which sport is “better” because they are so different from each other. Baseball and soccer have fundamental differences; soccer has two halves and the scoring can either take place very quickly or be very spread out. Whereas with baseball, six runs could happen in one inning and nothing could happen the rest of the game.

So what do the people think? In a Google Form sent out to the entire iSchool, 77% of people said they prefer soccer, but some of the people who answered it either didn’t give valid reasoning why they prefer that sport. If they really took the time to watch either baseball or soccer, they probably would enjoy it because soccer and baseball are the kinds of sports you can really fall in love with.

To fully examine the debate, we should look at the arguments people make against these sports. A lot of people say baseball is just waiting around for the ball to come to you and just swinging and hitting the ball, but it’s way more than that.

You don’t just swing and hit the ball; on a 100 mph pitch, the batter has less than a blink of an eye to not only decide whether the pitch is worth swinging at, but to also execute the swing, get good timing and make contact. This is only when it’s a fastball. Some of the other pitches including curveballs, screwballs, sliders, changeups and knuckleballs that pitchers throw can be terribly nasty.

“The next time someone whines that baseball doesn’t have enough action, you can do two things: first, explain the planning, strategizing, calculating, and deception that takes place before every pitch. Then quote Hall-of-Fame announcer Red Barber: ‘Baseball is dull only to dull minds.’” said Zack Hample, a lifelong baseball fan who has spent 20+ years in the stands trying to catch baseballs.

A lot of people say that baseball is hard to understand and therefore call it a bad sport. This is refuted by Leo Durocher, ballplayer for the Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers from 1925-1945, who was quoted saying, “Baseball is like church. Many attend, but few understand.”

The notion that baseball is boring is refuted by Eddie Yellin, a freshman at Frank Sinatra High School, who said, “People turn on the TV, see baseball, and say, ‘what a boring sport.’ The thing is with sports, you have to give them a chance, and before you know it you watch yourself fall in love with a sport that you once thought was too boring to bare.” Yellin likes baseball because of the “positions, players, batting, the fun, the tension and thrilling moments.” If you look at some of the classic baseball games in history you’ll see that baseball is way more than just boring and actionless.

A lot of people who play baseball now Jordan Hank, an iSchool junior, felt baseball came to her easier at a young age. She started playing baseball when she was 4 and doesn’t “religiously watch” baseball, but Hank was never able to play soccer because she would “step on the ball and fall and never get the hang of it,” however when she played baseball it wasn’t confusing, and she found it more fun than soccer.

Something that I feel elevates baseball from any other sport is the rich history of the game. During World War II, baseball was what united the country. James Earl Jones says it perfectly in the 1993 movie, “Field of Dreams.” Jones is speaking to Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella when he says: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.” Baseball has lasted the test of time which makes it so much better.

Now, the main argument against soccer is that it’s just kicking a ball around, and that there is not enough scoring. First of all, it takes skill to be able to find a teammate because your teammates are always moving around. Think of teammates as moving targets, and if you don’t hit them, you lose an opportunity to create an attack. Also, soccer is not meant to be a high scoring game. It’s meant to be tactically and physically challenging. If a game ends up being low scoring, this simply means that the defense did an excellent job, and playing defense is a really difficult thing to do.

Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff, who passed away a couple of years ago, said, “Soccer is simple, but it’s difficult to play simple.” What this means is that it’s easy to understand the basics of the game, but once you start playing, you need to strategize a lot and that soccer requires way more tactics than it appears on the surface; you need to strategize based on if the other team is playing more defensively, whether the other team is on the attack, and there are numerous ways that you can score based on strategy.

Philip Bannerman, a freshman at the iSchool, says, “I’ve always enjoyed playing since I was little. My dad follows it, so I started doing it. I like to run a lot and soccer involves a lot of running.” Soccer is one of the more challenging sports that inherently requires a lot of agility, because chances are you will be running around for at least 60 minutes, or even more, if the manager decides to keep you in.

Adriano Grassi, another freshman, says, “Soccer is very intense and fast. That’s what makes it fun.” You always have to be moving around. The movement of the game is what makes the game what it is.

A lot of people who like soccer began following or playing it for a really long time, as for any sport, because when you nurture your love of a sport, you get better at it and you understand more and more about it. With baseball, you normally just catch onto it because it’s relatively easy to understand.

These two sports are very different. For one, soccer is played and watched all around the world, and there are individual leagues in every country; some of the big ones are the La Liga in Spain, the Bundesliga in Germany, and the Premier League in England.

On the other hand, for baseball, there’s just one league where people really play baseball, which is the MLB. Even in Japan or Latin America, baseball players of all ages, sizes, capabilities and positions hope to make it to the MLB, which is the best out of the few professional baseball leagues in existence.

In the end, baseball and soccer are very difficult to compare, very different sports: baseball is an endless series of 1v1 matchups between pitchers and batters, where the batter and team tries to drive in as many runs as possible, and soccer is a constant back and forth where one team tries to net the ball for 90 minutes. If we were comparing tennis and ping pong, for example, it would be easier to compare, because they are very like-minded sports, but soccer and baseball are two of the most popular sports in the world, yet also two of the most different sports in the world. So while this debate over these two polarized sports may be heated, it’s important to note that they are very, very different.