2006-09-28 / Sam Bari

We're havin' a ball here

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

Concerned readers have been asking about the "space guys." People want to know if contact has been made. Sadly, I must report that contact with sentient beings from outer space is still as elusive as ever. However, we can't really blame them. They have reservations about making their presence known on this primitive, war-torn, environmentally destroyed little rock we call home.

For the most part, our way of thinking hasn't progressed much since the stone age. We've made giant steps in the world of technology, but other than that, we're still fairly basic. Think about it. If you were a space guy observing earth, and you didn't know anything about the planet or its occupants, what would you see?

You'd see a planet inhabited by people who are fascinated with balls. It's true. Just one step above the wheel, you might say, but we are absolutely enamored with different kinds of balls. You know, golf balls, basketballs, baseballs, etc.

For instance, the game of golf is a six billion dollar industry. It is played on 31,857 courses around the world. The United States alone has 11,680 golf courses, and those are just the ones that are open to the public. That appears to be a large number when you consider that we only have about 3000 universities and colleges.

Now let's take a look at some of the other "ball" related statistics. Major league baseball revenues topped $3.7 billion last year, and the National Basketball Association grossed slightly over $3 billion. And those statistics are just for the professionals. Think about how much was spent on baseballs, basketballs, games and equipment around the globe by amateurs and professionals together. The figure is staggering. And here's another interesting statistic: there are 240 million registered soccer players in the world. That's registered. How many more players are not even affiliated with teams? Quite a few, I am sure. To put that number in perspective, keep in mind that the population of the USA is 300 million. That means that the number of registered soccer players around the globe are equal to 80 percent of the population of the USA. Hard to believe, wouldn't you say?

If the space guys watch closely, what will they see? I think they'll see tens of thousands of hardworking people who look forward to spending their weekends repeatedly knocking a little ball into holes using a metal rod called a club. And if they're not involved in playing the game, golf fans are glued to their TV sets watching someone else do it.

But that's not the only ballrelated activity the space guys are going to observe. They'll see many more people kicking a larger ball back and forth on a playing field with thousands of fans cheering them on as they indulge in soccer matches. Every day we see the news in war-torn areas of the globe, and what do we see people doing in between battles? Men and boys, soldiers and civilians alike are playing pickup soccer. It seems that there's always time to play a ball related game. And we haven't even addressed football, bowling, tennis, softball, cricket, or field hockey. But I think you get the idea.

The point is that the space guys probably think we are semi-intelligent creatures who are easily amused - just throw us a ball and we'll be entertained for hours. People might be sick, starving, and functionally illiterate on our planet, and we never seem to have enough time or wherewithal to take care of those problems, but when a few billion dollars is needed to support a ball-related sport, it's always available.

The space guys probably amuse their pets the same way as we amuse ours. They throw them a ball to fetch. Are we really that different? I don't think so. Anyway I don't think we can expect to have a conversation with the space guys any time soon. They probably don't want to fraternize with people who live in a system they can't understand.

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