World Series of whatever
Whether you’ve realized it or not—and you probably haven’t—this World Series has been (forgive the tired word) epic. The Texas Rangers lead the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two in a race to four. Four of the games have been decided by fewer than four runs, and in the one blowout (game three), Cardinals slugger (cringe) Albert Pujols belted three home runs, becoming just the second player in MLB history to do so.
But as I said before, you haven’t noticed. You’re too busy watching mediocre football teams blast field goals between two big yellow symbols of male overcompensation. It’s not your fault, dear average Colby student, that you hail from the Greater Boston area. I’m right there with you. I haven’t seen an inning, while I know that if the Red Sox were playing, my grades for the semester would drop even lower than they already are (not an easy task).
Why is this? I know that I’ll watch the Super Bowl no matter who’s playing. Same goes for basketball (if we ever have basketball). I watch the World Cup even after the Yanks are (unjustly) eliminated. Curling. I live for curling the lone week every four years I get to watch it (London 2012, where you at?). Why, then, can’t I be bothered to watch the second-biggest sporting event in America?
Part of the blame falls on the executives at ESPN—the Worldwide Leader in Sports. That title alone is misleading, given the company’s unethical yet totally awesome East Coast bias. This bias isn’t unwarranted as ESPN—and winning—generally reside in New England and New York. If Boston or New York were guaranteed to make the World Series every year, you better believe ESPN would take the rights away from Fox in an instant. But there is just too great a risk for boring baseball (i.e. the perception of Texas vs. St. Louis) for ESPN to take that risk. Sunday Night Football on ESPN, however, is fun to watch no matter who’s playing. This week’s game was spectacularly one-sided, but the New England Patriots, New York Jets or a Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts would have drawn higher ratings than a matchup of two Midwestern baseball teams.
I think, however, the heart of baseball’s problem in this scenario is its lack of physicality and personality. People love seeing other people get hurt, so they flock to football and hockey. I enjoy watching transcendent talents—a real alpha-dog on a field—so I’ll watch a basketball and (weirdly) soccer as long as there is one world-class talent. You just never know when Dwyane Wade will throw a full-court alley-oop to LeBron James, or when Lionel Messi will do that Messi thing despite being a head shorter than everybody else.
The only situation in which baseball gets that personality is when two great pitchers go at it. I’d watch Roy Halladay hurl against Justin Verlander any day of the week. The contrasting yet equally unstoppable styles would make for great, dramatic television. Unfortunately, C.J. Wilson vs. Chris Carpenter doesn’t fulfill that need for a present personality. Sure, Josh Hamilton and Pujols are all-time hitters, but their at-bats might total 10 minutes of a four-hour game.
Game six, a game in which the Rangers can clinch the title, airs Wednesday night, and, if necessary, game seven will air Thursday. I think I’ll watch because in baseball, like all sports, you never know when something absolutely freaking impossible is going to happen. And as Red Sox fans, we don’t need to be reminded of this.