Review of “Why Baseball is a Sport and Golf is Not” by Aaron S. Bayley, Luigi Di Serio
Score: 96/100 (9.6 out of 10)
This book is absolutely, positively INCREDIBLE! Don't let the clickbait title fool you, this isn't some hate-filled, biased, bloated article comparing two sports that has just been padded to fill some pages. This is 1000+ pages of sports, sports, and more sports written by two authors who absolutely love sports!
This could have easily been called THE Encyclopedia of Sports: History, Rules, and Ethics!
Almost every major sport and even some pseudo-sports like pro wrestling, bodybuilding, poker, chess, and even video games are represented in this one book. Each gets given the time and attention they deserve (and sometimes even more attention than they deserve). It's unabridged and exhaustive but far from exhausting to read. There's so much information on each sport, but it's rarely ever dull. In fact, it's almost always interesting, fun, and exciting! Heck, the authors managed to make things like luge and even curling—perhaps the most mocked sport in all of the Olympics—somewhat fascinating.
There was even a section about powerlifting, the main sport that our editor competes in. He said it was pretty well researched and put together but with the expected bias toward the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) and its rules. There is a mention of nine spotters always being present, but this is not the case for the deadlift contest in almost all federations. There are probably little nitpicks that can be made by practitioners of the sport, especially the golfers who get absolutely shafted in the title and in later parts of this book. Indeed, we can imagine there will be quite a few athletes and sports enthusiasts who take umbrage with some of the statements made in the text. After all, if your favorite sport is essentially being called “not a real sport,” then you're naturally going to be pretty upset.
There are a few other controversial statements made like it being unfair to consider a biological advantage (like substantially elevated testosterone levels) an unfair advantage, but then following that up with numerous examples of how the use of steroids/PEDs is unfair and how it'd be unfair for a male athlete to fight or lift against a female athlete. We know what the authors were trying to say, how if you NATURALLY (biologically) have an advantage that can't be changed (like your height), it shouldn't stop you from competing in a sport. But don't be naïve. Let's be real. Exponentially higher levels of testosterone (200-500% above the normal range) looks pretty dang questionable and unfair. The keyword there is EXPONENTIALLY. You don't need a science or ethics degree to see how that can be problematic. Imagine the devastating consequences that could result from this in a combat sport. It'd be deadly! There's a reason why males normally don't fight females and that weight-classes exist, and it's not for the dismissive reasons the authors give (like that weight-classes are pretty much arbitrary). It's because men and bigger people objectively tend to be stronger than women and little people. Force equals MASS times acceleration after all.
What's strange is that the authors outright state that it's unethical to promote competitions that physically pit men against women and that they are saying that knowing that they may be accused of being chauvinistic (page 159). So which is it? Is it only fair to women with normal testosterone levels as long as it's not a combat sport because at least no one gets hurt?
On the flip side of the testosterone debate, the “testers” (like WADA) sound intrusive and annoying as all heck. Could you imagine working hard your whole life and making millions of dollars but not even having the privacy to, well... have a semblance of privacy?! They seriously need to know where you are at all times so that they can test you without notice? 24/7. 365?! That's insane!
There are also some parts of this book that seem like they're seeking to rationally diminish the legitimacy of certain sports and athletes, such as when Michael Phelp's many Olympic gold medals are questioned with some whataboutisms. The authors argue that he wouldn't have had so many gold medals if he'd played soccer instead, a sport with only one gold medal. You're not wrong, but that's also a pretty jerkish way to look at things. However, if you look past these thing and not take them so personally, there's a lot to learn from this book. If anything, this book leaves room for a lot of valuable debate and discussion.
But what really makes this an A+ book are the stories. The authors have a story or two (at least) to tell about the athletes in just about every sport. We LOVED hearing about our favorite athletes, some of whom we hadn't heard about in a long time! And can we just say how thankful we are that the authors acknowledged the hashtag and movement we helped start in 2015 (#GiveDivasAChance, which started the women's wrestling revolution) and even acknowledged Emma (Tenille Dashwood) as one of the four female wrestlers who started it that fateful day?
There are lots of moments like that in this text, but that one really stood out to us as special.
This book truly leaves no stone unturned! It is a marvel of a sports book!
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