Origins of sport

This is my Sunday column for the July 14, 2013 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Origins of sport
By Aaron J. Brown

Tuesday brings one of my favorite events in all of summer, Major League Baseball’s All-Star game.

This might seem a bit strange to some, as the all-star game is often not very good. The score often resembles the betting odds on a diabetic race horse. You have to spend a lot of time watching ESPN to know most of the players. You could try to keep a scorecard at home, as I did when I was a kid, but recording the endless lineup changes invariably shrouds all nearby paper with the gray marks of eraser and graphite amid the shuddering screech of metal and rubber.

Furthermore, baseball itself is increasingly dominated by players from countries with much more passion for the game than most American kids show today. Baseball is less popular here than football, basketball, auto racing and doing stupid things on YouTube. But we never truly escape what we see as children.

When I was 5 I saw…

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the green screen of the weekly baseball game on TV, that day featuring men wearing the gaudy orange-striped 1980s uniforms of the Houston Astros. I do believe it was shortly after that I asked my parents if I could play that game, that “baseball.” One broken window, several fielding errors, and final admission of failure later, I became the grown man who will watch Tuesday’s game with a bowl of indeterminate snack food.

I suppose what I like the most about the all star game is the fact that everyone plays the game wearing a different uniform. Sure, the “home” team (the league of the team whose stadium hosts the game) usually wears vaguely white uniforms, while the “away” team wears vaguely grey ones. But the caps, the logos, the entire vibe of the game is chaos.

Baseball is chaos barely contained within complicated, overbearing, seemingly arbitrary rules. And that’s what I love about it.

It might be a good year to try to score the game again. I have some new pencils from a Twitter friend.

Hold on now, here comes the chorus: “The kids these days with their phones and their social media. They can’t have a real conversation. You call those relationship?”

Yeah, I’ve heard this. I suppose it’s true sometimes. It’s easy to find a person online who is a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving piles of LOLs on the internet like scat. But my guy in England does pretty good by me.

David Leaver is a professor of marketing at the University of Manchester in England. He’s been here on the Iron Range a couple times, doing research and lecturing at Hibbing Community College and Dylan Days. He has a job I envy, studying nostalgia — particularly as it relates to marketing the hometowns of major music icons like Buddy Holly, Elvis, the Beatles and, of course, Hibbing’s own Bob Dylan.

The tradition of Lord’s blended with
its distant Minnesota cousin.

David and I got along splendidly when he was here, and he’s sent me some lovely things from England, including a decorative Cornish pasty recipe (owing to the Brown family’s origin in Cornwall) and pencils from Parliament. David is a big fan of sports, or sport as it’s called there. The other day he sent me a set of pencils from Lord’s, the historic home of cricket in London. Cricket, you might know, was the inspiration for the American sport of baseball. To boot, he sent them with a note on stationary from Wembley, which he describes as the “home of football.” Naturally, he’s referring to soccer.

Life is a story, and good ones work with some tradition and a good sense of origin. I’m glad I go into All-Star Week with a bit more perspective, and the ability to write it down.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and instructor at Hibbing Community College. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio (


  1. Gerry Mantel says

    Speaking of baseball, back in 1974 a “certain somebody” was not so concerned about how much money Catfish Hunter made as he was about how much money Bob Dylan made.

    True story!

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