Baltimore Orioles

Driving home from work on Sunday night, I turned on ESPN radio in hopes of hearing what happened on the final day of Major League Baseball’s regular season. Did the Tigers and Cards clinch? Did the A’s finally limp into the playoffs? Is Derek Jeter’s year-long retirement ceremony finally over? ESPN quickly reminded me that it was Sunday and that no one really cared. After all, it was the fourth week of the National Football League’s regular season and as you might have known, people really like football. So while I finally heard a brief mention of Jeter being taken out of Sunday’s game — thus ending his baseball-playing career — the conversation immediately reverted back to football: injuries to two young quarterbacks, the resurgence of four older quarterbacks, and long, loud dialogues about how much the Raiders suck. But I didn’t hear anything about Jordan Zimmerman’s no hitter, secured with one of the best catches of the year by a rookie outfielder named Steven Souza. I didn’t hear anything about the A’s defeating the Rangers to finally make the Wild Card after an epic second-half collapse. There was nothing about the Cards or Tigers clinching, and only a couple of quick, sterile bits from Jeter’s post-game interview.

ESPN doesn’t hate baseball. It just loves football so much that there’s really no room for any other sport, no matter how significant the happenings. SVP and Russillo both refer to baseball as the sport that they loved in their youth. They’re forced to watch so much college football that they don’t have much time for baseball these days. Colin Cowherd does the same and often makes it clear how little he follows baseball with his terrible and sometimes factually incorrect analysis. (He once stated that pitchers called defensive shifts and all pitching sequences). These sentiments mirror those of America, which seems to eat up all of the bad news about the NFL, along with any slightly good news, and treats all of it like it’s the greatest thing since their first orgasm. While I’ve heard baseball, basketball and football referred to as the “big three” sports in America, even that seems out-of-date. It’s football, and then everything else.

America’s “favorite pastime” is just that: the past. And yet, my favorite sporting month on the calender begins tomorrow: October. (As a bonus, this year the playoffs begin today, on the last day of September… but hopefully you already knew that). Sure, the major news outlets will still care more about Teddy Bridgewater’s ankle than they will about any Wild Card game, but this is due to the football crazy culture that they themselves have created.

In all fairness, I do understand the practicality of this, on some level: it’s easier to make football a TV friendly event, even if it unfolds rather slowly in-person. When people say that baseball is too slow or boring for them, I ask them to consider the halftime that comes in every football game. Forgetting all of the ads and half time shows, are you trying to tell me that a regular season football game contains more action than a playoff baseball game? In football, there is a full 20 minutes of halftime when nothing happens. The game stops for two minutes during at least six other intervals. Injuries, timeouts and every huddle are devoid of on-the-field entertainment (cheerleaders notwithstanding). This system is optimal for dissecting replays, drinking beer, and watching abrasive advertisements, but is the sport actually the “fast-paced” and interesting game it is perceived to be?

Conversely, baseball has pauses between every inning and every pitch, but the energy never dies. The game never really stops. Subtleties exist within moments casual viewers might assess as “boring.” And even if you don’t appreciate the intricacies of a relievers pitch sequence, or a third baseman creeping closer to the line with every late-game out, you can’t tell me that a diving catch in baseball isn’t fun and exciting. You can’t tell me that a home run doesn’t do something to spark a fire in your loins. (Did you know that your loins are actually in your lower back? I did not know that.) You can’t tell me that watching the Cowboys blow out the Saints is more interesting than Jordan Zimmerman throwing the first no hitter in Nationals history. But… you all just did. And that sucks.

This October, I dare you to try and watch baseball. Just a couple of months ago, America suddenly went nuts for the other kind of football during the World Cup, and now I hope that some of you pigskin loving bros will give baseball another chance. No matter how much you love football, I dare you to skip week five of the NFL and watch the divisional series. Set your fantasy lineups so that you can watch a game of a League Championship Series during week six of the NFL and then, after you get to watch the glory that is the World Series and you witness the epic end of the longest season in American sports, you can go back and watch the second half of the NFL’s regular season, where teams might ultimately go 8-and-8 and make the playoffs, where myriad players will get hurt and then someone will do something illegal and suddenly spark a national debate that really has nothing to do with football, forcing an incompetent commissioner to make decisions on the behalf of all American morality. Because that’s what football is all about these days: on-the-field violence spilling off-the-field, ensuring year-round football coverage that has turned media outlets like ESPN into something more closely resembling CNN. And don’t get me started on the fickle, one-and-done NFL playoffs that lack the electricity of a Game 7 in October.

There will be plenty of football to watch down the stretch. For now? It’s baseball time.

 

 

Cover Image by Keith Allison.