Checking Out (of) The Series


So you call yourself a fan. You watch ballgames all spring and summer. So why not the World Series?

I know baseball’s a local (regional) sport, where loyalty and viewing goes to die when your team is eliminated. It’s understandable that for the most the slower-paced game can’t hold a helmet to pro football’s Sunday bachannal. Still, the hardball October apathy doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Hundreds of hours are spent watching or attending games (despite a dip, there were still some 70 million fannies in  MLB stadium seats in 2008), but you’d rather check out the World Series through highlights on SportsCenter or read about it online or in the newspaper the next day? What, you can’t stand to have Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in your living room again? You’re watching early-season NHL action instead? Pushing Daisies? The New Adventures of Old Christine? Preseason hoops? The Knight Rider reprise?

C’mon. It’s baseball’s championship!

At least, sports fan got it somewhat right last Sunday. TBS set a cable record with baseball, drawing 13.4 million fans to Tampa Bay’s 3-1 triumph over the BoSox in Game 7 of the ALCS. Meanwhile, NBC’s lackluster Sunday Night Football match between the Seattle Seahawks (Paul Allen’s football team isn’t doing much better these days than his cable company’s stock) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackled just 10 million viewers, an all-time low for an NFL broadcast in primetime. 

As a sports fan, it was a choice between a relatively meaningless NFL regular-season game versus an historic baseball game in which The Nation’s supporters were trying to will their heroes to a second consecutive ALCS 3-1 game-deficit comeback. The numbers shouldn’t have been that close.

Now, Game 1 of the 2008 Fall Classic is in the Nielsen books. The Philadelphia Phillies’ 3-2 win at The Trop garnered a 9.2 national rating and 14.6 million viewers, 12% less than the 10.5 rating and16.9 million viewers for the opener between the Red Sox and their sweep last season of the Colorado Rockies, but 15% above the 8.0 and 12.8 million for the first game of the 2006 World Series. That not so Fall Classic in which the Detroit Tigers’ pitchers threw things away to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.was the lowest-rated ever.

Yes, the the love-’em/hate-’em Sox, New York Yankees or LA Dodgers, or the 100-years-of-futility Chicago Cubs aren’t in the action.. But the Rays could be a 2008 version of the 1969 Miracle Mets, who by the way dropped that World Series opener to the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1. Tampa has been the game’s doormat for its decade in the league. The Phillies have won one title in their first 125 years and are looking to bring the City of Brotherly Love its first major sports crown since Dr. J and Moses delivered the Sixers to the NBA’s promised land in 1983.

Those are far better storylines for Game 3 than Ohio State-Penn State on Saturday night or the Colts-Titans (Tennessee is the NFL’s last unbeaten, but it’s only week eight) on ESPN’s Monday Night Football against Game 5..(Game 4 will go unchallenged by SNF, which has a bye.)

Then again, I’m not watching Survivor or ER tonight, either.