In Game 2 of the NLCS on Monday night, 235-pound man-missile Matt Holliday broke up a double play by launching himself at Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro. Scutaro, only 185 pounds, never had a chance. The late slide demolished the 36-year-old's hip and took him out of the game. Since then the press has been calling for Holliday's head.
There are only two situations in baseball in which players are just straight up allowed to try and kill each other: breaking up a double play at second base and charging the catcher at home. Holliday's real crime in attempting the former was an utter lack of grace; smoother players have been praised for their hustle while performing similar slides. The injury to Scutaro is awful, but Matt Holliday wasn't doing anything he hadn't been taught to do.
At least, that's what sensible people think. What about America as a whole?
According to ESPN's SportsNation Poll on the issue, 55 percent of the country thinks the play was dirty, with a nice streak of red "That's Just How Baseball Works" cutting across the Heartland. If we look deeper at these poll results though, we see that it's not America that's being wimpy; it's America's fancy-pants, latte-sippin', fixed-gear-bike-ridin' city folk.
Let's compare each state's result in the ESPN poll to the percentage of its population that lives in rural areas. Excluding the Giants' market (California, Oregon, and Nevada) and the Cardinals' market (Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, and Oklahoma), here's what you get:
Chalk it up to the rough country life. As states become more rural, they become more forgiving of Holliday. This is a very significant effect (r=0.541/p=0.0003, for the nerds) and based on this trend we'd expect a completely urban state to vote 56 percent in favor of "dirty," and a completely rural state to vote just 42 percent in favor.
Wisconsin, which probably hates the Cardinals enough to warrant exclusion from this analysis, voted the play dirty despite its ruralness, as did Maine. Utah (91 percent urban!) saw 59 percent voting the play a dirty, while North Dakota wins "most casually accepting of violence," with only 43 percent voting it dirty. As the birthplace of one of America's scrappiest players of all time (SPOAT), North Dakotans just know good hustle when they see it.
Complete state-by-state results are below; urban/rural data from 2010 US census:
|State||% Voting "Dirty"||% Rural|
|District of Columbia||58%||0%|