The Baseball Test Case

Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 08:46:29 GMT

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    Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 08:35:36 GMT+00:00
    Subject: The Baseball Test Case
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    The following came up in a recent thread but seems to have passed below the critical radar....

    "An example [of a thought contagion] that is clearly not a disease metaphor
    is the spread of baseball in children due to the need to recruit
    nine players per team."

    This is clearly not just an off-hand comment as it was published in a paper journal. So presumably it is a serious proposition. But what does it actually say, and what does it say about this particular kind of explanation of cultural change? It isn't qualfied by any if, buts or elses, so again presumably number of players is really proposed as the main driving factor in the game's spread.

    To say that a game spreads as a cultural phenomenon due to "the need to recruit nine players per team." implies that games with even more players would spread even faster.

    So why then is the Orkney Ba' Game (100 players per side) not the world's most popular sport? This is a real game that has been played for centuries. It is possibly the oldest kind of football. For Ba' Game pictures:

    The straight fact that sheer number of players does not impinge on a game's popularity baldly falsifies the claim that "spread of baseball in children [is] due to the need to recruit nine players per team." The claim is manifestly and patently nonsense.

    Clearly there must be other reasons why some games spread and others don't. A long list of other reasons could be provided. Most will have far, far stronger effects than number of players. Why did football (soccer) spread though South America? Why did rugby union spread though Wales? Why is southern-eastern Australia mad for Aussie rules while Queensland loves Rugby League? There are well accepted sociological explanations for these phenomena that I won't bore you with. Suffice to say that none involve number of players.

    Regarding the parochiality of the Ba' Game, it isn't just lack of publicity. See the Korean camera crew (picture ny02_0006 at the above website). If number of participants is the only factor or even the main factor we should now have the Pyongyang Ba' Game. We don't because the 'need to recruit' explanation is frankly absurd.


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