Batting Orders and Simulacra

Jean Baudrillard's orders of simulacra applied to baseball:

First order of simulacra: counterfeit

In the early days of sports broadcasting, announcers at small-town, local radio stations would receive a tickertape summary of a baseball game occurring far away in a major league city. Based on the tape's skeletal account, the announcer (President Ronald Reagan labored as this kind of fabulator) would narrate the game to his listening audience as if he were sitting behind home plate, observing play by play what he was saying.

Depending on the announcer's skill (deception) in manufacturing details, filling in background, elaborating in a colorful, dramatic fashion on the bare-bones info of a scanty script, the fiction of a ball game would become satisfyingly real or not for listeners.

The writer's voice, like the voice of this remote, radio play-by-play announcer, pitches itself to the reader from a site distanced from the action words describe — by many kinds of distance, many kinds of remove, many layers of art and artifice, illusion and lies that also keep the reader at a distance, multiple removes from the action, many forms of remove the reader can choose to think about or not (is this report fiction or documentary, true or false, is the tale-teller reliable, am I listening to a real person or a made-up person pretending to be a person, etc., etc.), but removes always there, built into the circumstances, conditioned by the nature of narrative construction (Wideman, 2001).

Second order of simulacra: production

The baseball card craze of the 50's-70's. Witness the burgeoning economy in trading baseball cards with one another, or the creation of extremely valuable collectibles ("To accumulate signs, one needs money, not social power." — Introducing Baudrillard). Numerical offensive production became ingrained in the professional sporting discourse.

Third order of simulacra: simulation

Baudrillard noted in Simulacra and Simulation (1994) that simulators "attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation". Isn't this true of sport simulators? WhatIfSports, Strat-O-Matic, EA Sports' titles, fantasy games and the other types of simulations mentioned above operate on one principle: the mathematical manipulation of numerical information. How do athletes get more adulation, a higher paycheck, or the cover of a sports videogame? Simple: they "put up numbers".

Thus, we see baseball enter an era of "Nintendo numbers", and players resemble the type of hypermasculinity required to sustain this simulation.


Wideman, J.E. (2001). Hoop roots. Houghton Mifflin Co.


Comments are closed.