God loves baseball

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Derek Jeter

Keith Allison via Flickr

Yankee legend Derek Jeter

baseball“Baseball is like church: many attend, but few understand.” — Wes Westrum

Derek Jeter’s finish to his baseball career is proof positive for the existence of God. At least that’s how many baseball fans are going to interpret it.**

Religion, it turns out, is a better predictor of who is a fan than age or where one lives. A poll last year by CBS found that while there is a gender gap (men are more likely to be fans than women), there are also religious differences. The “nones” are less likely to be fans; Catholics and (white) evangelicals are more likely to root, root, root for the home team.

A few key findings from the poll:

  • People who say that have no religion are the least likely to be a fan of baseball. Only one-in-four are fans — this is true for both men and women.
  • Catholics have the greatest gender gap. Nearly half of Catholic men are baseball fans. This is twice as high as for Catholic women.
  • Among women, evangelicals are baseball’s biggest fans. And evangelicals have a smaller gender gap because of this.

The poll also shows something curious among evangelicals. For most groups, older men are more likely to be fans of baseball (this is particularly true among blacks). However, younger evangelicals are more likely to be fans than older evangelicals.

Baseball may be the national pastime, but CBS News poll last year found that a third of Americans are fans of Major League Baseball. While the size of the fan-base may seem low for our “national pastime,” that’s not necessarily the case. It turns out that baseball has never had a majority of Americans as fans. Sure, most men in the 1950s followed the game, but women were not big fans.  Today, women are more likely than in earlier decades to follow the sport. Gallup found the fan-base is the same today as in the 1930s and 1950s. Our memory of baseball uniting American culture is, perhaps, a view we get from looking through men’s lenses.

** Except maybe in Boston. In St. Louis, the Cubs record is already seen as proof of divine retribution.

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