After champagne is poured in the locker room and the commissioner presents the World Series trophy to the winning manager, I start the countdown to Opening Day. There are a few ‘obstacles’ to get through. Perhaps an election. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years. And last but not least, the Super Bowl. Today, finally, we can get through this final roadblock and get back to what’s important.
I write this blog somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Posting on a baseball related website, I’m hoping not to get crucified too much. I know I’ll probably burn in a red, white and blue hell for being anti-Super Bowl, but here goes.
I used to be a big football fan. Back in the day, I rooted for the Cowboys. Over the years, however, I’ve lost interest in the game. True, Baseball has always been my first love. But as I enter my 40th year of watching America’s National Pastime, I not only still love the game but perhaps, more importantly, I appreciate the game. The nature of its very essence. Is there anything more beautiful than a perfectly executed 6-4-3 double-play? The majestic way a first baseman stretches, scoops the ball out of the dirt and brings his arm up as if it was easy. Poetry in motion. I love how an outfielder turns and races into the power alley to snag a sinking liner, then trots off the field as if he had it all the time. That’s Baseball.
Today one hundred million Americans will tune in to watch a Football game. But yet, for the next several days, what will the nation be talking about? Commercials and the half-time show.
I no longer follow football with any interest. I know the Niners are facing the Ravens. Honestly, I’m not even sure where the Ravens play. But I sure do know that Beyonce is singing at Half Time and Coke got in trouble for some controversial ad.
With apologies to George Carlin, the differences between baseball and football are vast. I’ll take Baseball.
In game 4 of the 2012 World Series the Giants went to the bottom of the 10th winning 4-3. With the Tigers down to their last out, 3 pitches away from being swept, who stepped to the plate but Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Sergio Romo, a man who was not even supposed to be the closer, looked in for the sign to face Cabrera. He didn’t “fall on the ball.”
This is baseball. You can’t run out the clock. Each team has an equal number of chances. I get 27 outs. You get 27 outs. And then the victor is determined.
We’ve all heard the criticisms about Baseball: The game moves too slow. There’s no action. Nothing happens. It’s boring.
Well, imagine this scenario for a moment: The pitcher throws a fastball. Strike one. The catcher walks to the mound, calls in the infield and they discuss the next pitch. The players return to their position. A curve ball that just misses. Ball one. The catcher walks to the mound, summons the infielders and discusses the next pitch. And so on and so on. Now, wouldn’t that be ridiculous? But if you think about it, that’s exactly what they do in football.
Here’s a typical possession: A team huddles, talking in secret about what to do. Then they walk to the line of scrimmage. They count. The quarterback steps back, turns left, hands the ball to a running back. He gains 3 yards. Now, they all walk away, get into their little secret huddle and discuss what to do now. They again saunter to the line of scrimmage where the QB counts. He steps back, turns right this time, hands to a running back. He gains 4 yards. Now what? Well, time to have a meeting. They walk back, have another group meeting and decide the next play. Again, they go to the line of scrimmage. The QB counts. He fades back, looks downfield and throws a 20 yard pass. His tight end catches the ball. First down. Whew! Good, now we sit and watch as the referees, line judges and both teams take a walk to the new line of scrimmage. And what’s the first thing they do? They have a meeting about what to do now.
You tell me. If you think about it, which is more boring? I’d prefer to watch Miguel Cabrera dig in and Sergio Romo looking in to Buster Posey. I’d prefer to watch a speedy base runner dancing off first base, the pitcher holding the ball just a second too long, trying to break the concentration of the speedster while maintaining focus on the batter. To me, that’s more thrilling than watching a bunch of guys talking in a huddle.
And think about this. If Football truly is more exciting, has more action and is faster moving than Baseball, why exactly does it take 3 hours to play a 1 hour game? The game is designed into 4 15 minute quarters. That’s one hour. But yet it takes 3 hours to play. Therefore, the point can be made that for 2 hours, nothing happens.
Let’s say it’s a big game. The clock is ticking down. The team on offense is trailing 21-14 with 35 seconds left. They’re driving down field. They get into their opponents territory. The fans are going wild. After another meeting and some more counting, the QB fades back. He avoids one defender, sidesteps another one. He sees his man open. He fires into the end zone where his receiver is double covered. The clock is ticking. The entire game is on the line. The receiver jumps in the corner sandwiched between 2 defenders who also jump. The receiver comes down with the ball. Touchdown!! Wait. Maybe it’s not a touchdown. There’s a flag on the play. Was there pass interference? Were both his feet in bounds? Hmm, well, let’s check with the officials. Personally, when I’m watching sports and in the heat of an exciting contest, heart beating in my chest, an entire season on the line, is there anything more thrilling, exciting and heart-stopping than watching a guy in a striped shirt talking on a headset to a guy in booth who is watching the play in slo-mo? I just love that tingly sensation I get waiting for the officials to tell me if what I just saw really happened or not.
What about that thrilling moment when a team is at 4th and one. The QB hands off the ball. The player dives through the air. Opponents jump on top of him. His own teammates jump on top of them. Did he make the first down? I don’t know. Let’s wait while the officials untangle the cluster of bodies to see. Oh, they’re still not sure. Time to wave to the sidelines and bring in a ten yard chain that has a stick in the bottom.
When Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett, I didn’t have to wait 3 minutes to see if he really struck him out.
On a Sunday, if a quarterback completes 21 of 30 passes, it’s a great day for him. To me, that means he made 9 errors. Imagine if David Wright made 9 errors in one day.
People complain about baseball players making millions of dollars. However, the season starts in mid-February when pitchers and catchers reports. Six weeks later, they begin a grueling 162 game schedule that extends into October. And if you’re lucky to make it to the post-season, into late October. Eight months of being away from your family, your kids, your loved ones. On average playing 5 games a week. By comparison, football players play once a week. For 3 hours! And even then, after 2 quarters, they need a rest. Halftime. Really???
I don’t watch football anymore. The only Super Bowl I watched recently was the one the Giants won. I don’t even recall what year that was. That, and the one I turned on only to watch Bruce Springsteen perform during halftime. Or maybe that was even the same one.
Keeping in mind, I’m a baseball fan and not a football fan, Baseball creates memories. Over the last 15 years we’ve witnessed countless indelible Fall Classic moments: Edgar Renteria’s shot up the middle to give the upstart Marlins a shocking 7 game victory over the heavily favored Indians.Seven years later it was that same Renteria who hit a comebacker to the mound, thereby ending an 86 year curse. JT Snow crossing the plate, yanking a young Darren Baker to safety. The 07 Rockies, who stormed into the post-season winning 21 of their last 22 games, only to get roundly swept by the Red Sox. Luis Gonzalez getting an unforgettable hit against the best closer in the history of the game. Roger Clemens throwing a shattered bat at Mike Piazza. Guys named Sandoval and Pujols going deep three times in a single game, forever linked with the names Ruth and Jackson. 55,773 fans sitting in The House That Ruth Built, their cheers getting shoved back down their throats as a 23 year-old kid named Josh Beckett silenced the Bronx Bombers. The 2002 Giants were led by the bats of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. Yet, it was Adam Kennedy and Scott Spiezio who were remembered for big HR’s. That’s baseball memories. What’s the most talked about moment of the Super Bowl in the past decade, the one single event that people still remember? A wardrobe malfunction.
Perhaps the difference between the two sports can be summed up in famous statements made by some revered men from each game. Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Bart Giamatti said, “The game of baseball is designed to break your heart.” Lombardi’s quote indicates that you’re a failure if you lose. In everyday life, we experience more losses than victories, more failures than successes. Which statement rings truer?
As I said earlier, I write this somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I realize (sadly) Football is more popular than Baseball nowadays. More people watch the Super Bowl than the World Series. I’m not saying Baseball is a better game. I’m just saying, in my opinion, it is.
I’m happy today is the Super Bowl. Good luck to the Niners. Good luck to the Ravens. In three hours when this 60 minute game is over, we’ll be that much closer to Opening Day.