Jose Valentin was ninety feet from home. Endy Chavez was on second representing the tying run. Pinch-runner Anderson Hernandez was on first. Bases loaded, 2 outs, bottom of the 9th. The Mets trailed 3-1. A base hit would tie it, a double would send us to the World Series against Detroit. 56,357 fanatics screamed and cheered and proudly shouted Let’s Go Mets as Carlos Beltran walked to the plate. 41 HR’s, 116 RBI’s and 38 doubles, Beltran was “the guy.” Adam Wainwright was quickly ahead in the count 0-2. The Cardinal rookie then delivered a curve over the outside corner at the knees that left Beltran paralyzed. Ty Cobb would have been caught looking. Shea became deathly quiet as Yadier Molina bounded up and down like his feet were on fire.
But what if it didn’t happen?
Imagine if after the 0-2 pitch that stunned Beltran, the umpires would have stood around to discuss things. Imagine if they gathered at home and measured the strike zone and determined where exactly the ball crossed the plate. Sound crazy? Not really. Isn’t that exactly what happens when a football player leaps at fourth down and inches?
I grew up in Queens and rooted for the Dallas Cowboys because my dad knew Roger Staubach (and yes, I had that Cowboys cheerleader poster in my bedroom) My dad rooted for the Rangers, me the Islanders. He was a Knicks fan. I never got into basketball. However, these sports were ancillary. Ours was a baseball home.
Even baseball fans complain about the length of a ballgame. Pitching changes, visits to the mound, throws to first. It slows down the game they claim. Football has more action. Football is faster. Baseball is boring. My question is this: If Football truly is faster then why does it take so long? The game is rigidly designed into 4 15-minute quarters. One hour. Yet, a typical game runs triple that. In other words for 2 hours of a 3 hour game there is nothing happening. Two of every three minutes are pointless.
Here’s an example of a possession: The offense has the ball on their own 20. They huddle and discuss what they should do. They walk up to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback counts, he steps back, he hands off to the running back. The RB gets 3 yards. Now, we watch players untangle from each other and what happens next? They retreat in the opposite direction to discuss the next play. Another huddle, another meeting, another plan. The offense returns to the line of scrimmage again. The QB counts, steps back, turns right this time, hands the ball to the RB. Now he gets 4 yards. 3rd and three.
Once again, players unravel and walk off to yet again have another meeting. What should we do now? After their conference concludes, the QB does some more counting and throws downfield. Ohhh, incomplete pass. The clock now stops and we watch some players walk off the field as other players walk onto the field. The ball is kicked sixty yards and the receiver drops to his knees to signal fair catch. The clock stops again so players can exit the field again, only to be replaced by a brand new squad. And now, with this new group on the gridiron, what’s the first order of business? Let’s have a discussion so we can decide what to do.
And this is more exciting than baseball? Imagine a catcher talking to the pitcher after every pitch or the infielders meeting on the mound following every foul ball?
If these huddles/meetings are so important, let me put forth another scenario. Offense has the ball on their own 30, they’re losing by 5 points with 2 minutes left, no time-outs. Exciting stuff. Now–with the game on the line and time ticking away–in the most crucial 120 seconds of all–they line up quickly and repeatedly throw the ball downfield—WITHOUT a meeting. What? NOW is the one time they SHOULD have a discussion. At the most critical juncture of the game they DON’T discuss what to do? If huddles are not needed with the game on the line then what was the point of all the huddles for the first 2 hours and 50 minutes?
I haven’t seen so many pointless meetings since I turned on C-Span and watched our government in action.
Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of meetings. The only thing worse than sitting through one is watching other people engage in meetings. But that’s the essence of Football: An endless series of meetings about what to do next.
Yes, I’m no longer a football fan—as you probably gathered. I know I’m in the minority, both in the real world and even here on a Mets website. To me, watching a pitcher throw to first to keep a runner close or a batter stepping out to break a pitcher’s rhythm is far more electrifying than watching people outfitted like gladiators trotting on and off the sidelines.
One of the many things I love about the beauty of Baseball is the history, the memories. But mostly the endless possibilities. I’ve watched thousands and thousands of games over 41 seasons. However, I still witness events I’ve never observed before. After four decades I saw a game end on an obstruction call at third base. The following day the game ended with a runner being picked-off. When was the last time anyone saw that, much less in the World Series?
There’s also the uniqueness of baseball, uniqueness without specifics. You can describe a moment in baseball to the casual fan without supplying names and he or she will know exactly what you’re talking about:
Remember when that one guy hit the slow roller down the 1B line and the guy missed it? Remember when they said there was too much pine tar on that one dude’s bat and he went ballistic after negating his HR? Remember when what’s his name threw a Perfect Game in the World Series? Whatever happened to the chubby guy who “called his shot?” Every one of you knows exactly who and what I’m referring to.
Now, on the football side of the ledger: Remember when that guy threw into the end zone and the guy leaped and caught the ball? Remember when that one fella broke free and ran for the first down?
Baseball you watch. Football you look at.
Baseball is something where you ponder endless possibilities. Do you hit and run in this situation? Do you play the infield back and give up a run? Do you pinch hit for the pitcher even though it’s only the sixth inning? Do you send the runner home even though the right fielder has a strong arm? It’s the anticipation of action.
What is there to consider in football? Should the wide receiver go deep? Should the RB have ran right instead of left? Not the same.
In Baseball we know immediately what happened. In Football we have to wait to see if what we just saw really did happen.
I like when a QB dives over guys to try and get that one yard for a first down. Did he make it? Did the defense hold him? Will the other team get the ball right here? Who knows? Let’s watch the officials come out with a chain and two sticks and try and determine a distance of ten yards. Thrilling stuff!
Tight end avoids two defenders in the end zone. Touchdown!!! But wait, maybe not. There’s a flag on the play. Now we sit back and watch the zebras discuss things. (Good, more discussions) Pass interference. Touchdown doesn’t count.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Just like when I played stickball with my friends at age nine, it’s a DO-OVER!
When Shane Victorino doubled in three and hammered the first nail into the Cardinals coffin last week, it REALLY happened. Michael Wacha would’ve loved to have the pitch back but Cards skipper Mike Matheny couldn’t ask for a DO OVER. Not only is there no crying in baseball, but there’s also no DO-OVERS.
I also get a laugh when ESPN is touting the great performance of some quarterback. He completed 18 of 31 passes. Really? To me, that’s 13 errors. Imagine if David Wright only completed 18 of 31 throws across the diamond?
Remember when Chuck Knoblauch was pretty much run out of town for an erratic arm? If he played football, an arm like that would get him enshrined in Canton.
People also grumble about baseball salaries, yet no one vents about Football salaries. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, it’s ludicrous how much athletes get paid. However, why is the argument only focused on baseball? Ballplayers play 3 hours a night for six months. Football players play 3 hours a week—unless, of course, they have a by-week. (I wish I could get 2 weeks off after working 3 hours).
The World Series is now over and the next big thing is the Super Bowl. Ahh, yes, the Super Bowl. A “sporting” event watched by one hundred million Americans. And what does everyone talk about for days after? The game? No. Commercials. Somewhere between a little kid dressed as Darth Vader and Britney Spears dancing, there was apparently a game played.
What’s the most talked about Super Bowl moment of the last twenty years?
Granted, I’m not objective when it comes to Football. I wouldn’t even consider myself a casual fan. I can’t recall who won last year’s Commercial Bowl. Over the last twenty five years I’ve watched a couple: the two the Giants played in and the second half of whichever one Bruce Springsteen performed at halftime. As a football outsider I don’t know anything about recent Super Bowl history. Yet, I’m familiar with the periphery events: commercials, lights going out, wardrobe malfunctions. It’s interesting how even to football fans themselves the most memorable events of the Holy Grail of their sport is what goes on off the field.
I know Whitney Houston once sung a rousing rendition of the National Anthem during a Super Bowl but I have no idea who won that afternoon.
In a few months one of every three Americans will have a party, consume plenty of chicken fingers and pizza and watch a game, eagerly as excited about the commercials and half-time show as they are with the goings-on on the field. Me? I look forward to the Super Bowl as well. Once that’s out of the way I know it’s only a couple weeks until pitchers and catchers report and we can get back to what’s important.