Of populations, baseball teams, and the Bible Belt (1)

How does the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s office relate to the Bible Belt?  It may be a strained connection, but….

I know a few folks in Memphis and a bunch more in Nashville.  I’ve wondered, on occasion, why Memphis doesn’t have a major league baseball team.  Could it be because St. Louis is not far up-river, and the Cardinals have for many decades been one of the most worthy teams in all of fandom?  The Cards have a good thing going, and another team 4.5 hours away probably wouldn’t have worked out so well.

Then why not Nashville?  Nashville is four hours east of Memphis and is another city of more than a half-million.  Nashville somehow got a football team, but no baseball?  I don’t get it.  Maybe the legacy country music fans like football more?  And what about Charlotte?  It’s much larger, but maybe too close to Atlanta (once dubbed “America’s Team,” but the fans blew that one for me by perpetuating the “home of the “Braves” ending of the national anthem)?  Cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland and Minneapolis don’t seem–by the size of the markets–to merit major league teams as much, and SF-Oakland certainly doesn’t deserve two teams.

If you consider the mere pleasantries of the fan base legacy, or of a city itself, New York and Philadelphia don’t deserve any teams at all, but the smaller-market cities Kansas City and Pittsburgh do.  Oklahoma City just might deserve a team, too.  By some measures, Columbus is a bigger city than either Cincinnati or Cleveland, but the latter two got dibs decades ago.  It’s about history more than population, I suppose.

. . .

Back to Nashville now … and let’s move the discussion to churches.  To determine why present-day Nashville seems to have more churches per square mile than any other city, one would have to retreat a couple of centuries and trace the history.  These days, though—whatever the historical reasons—I think it’s a shame that there are so many.  A few of them might consider joining together to form one … or, if they prefer, as I do, to have smaller circles of Christian acquaintance, at least they shouldn’t be exclusive of one another.  (What could be sillier than passing two or three church choices of the same denomination while you’re driving to your church?  This happens often in Nashville.)

All the major conferences and events and lectureships and such are in the Bible Belt, too.  Economically, I know, the Bible Belt churches can support a major conference, just like New York can support the most exorbitant of all the exorbitant baseball salaries (Yankee salaries, of course), but the Bible Belt is not where the conferences are needed.  Just as the Royals need some quality players to lift them from the divisional basement, western Pennsylvania needs something to spur its growth.  Central Kansas, too.  Wisconsin.  Oregon.  West Virginia.

I once suggested to a leader from an annual Christian conference that the organization should bring it to Delaware.  Large populations from Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and D.C. would have access to it, and the comparatively diminutive Delaware churches could have been thrilled and edified beyond the norm.  The conference leader looked at me for a few seconds.  I don’t think the possibility really registered on him.  I mean, everyone knows conferences are always in Nashville or Dallas. . . .

To be continued …


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