Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Ends in the Fall -- If Only

Yours truly attended one of the first of baseball's "I can't believe they played today" playoff games as a fan in October, 1977. It was the fourth game of the 1977 National League championship series between the Phillies and Dodgers at the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. It was an elimination game, since in those dear dead days, the first of TWO postseason series was best three-of-five.

It was 45 and raining at game time that Saturday night. It was 45 and pouring by the game's end. The Phils lost a snoozer as mercilessly dull as all games were Tommy John (the LA pitcher) was on his game. I remember two things about the tilt. My brother, who got us the tickets through the law firm for which he then a young associate, gave our back row sheltered tickets to two of the firm's senior partners and shoved us ten rows down into the rain, and by the third inning, I didn't care who won. I only wanted it to be over, even if the Phils, for whom I cared much more than I do now, were beaten.

In 2009, all of America feels the same way about playoff baseball. As a nation, we don't care who is champion of our national pastime as long as it stops passing the damn time before Thanksgiving. Did I watch last night's Yankees-Angels game to the bitter end? Hell, no! Would I have accepted a free ticket to sit in the cold and rain to watch it person. Hell no times one trillion!!!

The forecast for tonight's Phils-Dodgers game is for more cold, more rain, and more sleep deprivation. I'm hoping with all my might the score is something like 7-2 in the fourth inning -- whoever's got the seven.

As noted, baseball's insistence on dragging its postseason into conditions not fit for competition is an old, old story. It's insistence on dragging the postseason into the holiday season is newer, but stems from the same root principle -- people at home watching TV are warm and dry, so who cares about anybody else?

Funny thing though. Every year the ratings for the World Series seem to go down. Ratings for the first round of the playoffs, on the other hand, went up this year. Maybe we're a land of Mr. and Mrs. EARLY Octobers. Or, far more likely, people start off interested, and the time commitment required to watch a month's worth of late night baseball causes more and more of them to look outside at the turning leaves and decide it's football season.

If your team isn't in it, watching postseason baseball makes no sense. It's a decision stay to near or past midnight on work/school nights to watch pitching changes and stale and stupid crowd reaction shots from TV directors utterly lacking in creativity. TBS cameras can't follow fly balls, but they can sure catch pretty girls and cute children looking tense. Why bother? Mr. Nielsen says many don't.

Asking baseball not to be greedy is like asking water not to be wet. All I ask is that greed not be stupid. A sport where fewer and fewer people bother to watch its championship competition is a sport with long-term problems relating to growth. This is particularly true if the reason they're not watching are all the compromises to the competitive integrity and viability of your game as a live spectator sport you made to attract larger TV audiences in the first place.


At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my brother was lucky i got him any seats at all


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