04 November 2009

A Week At The Opera

I've been a baseball fan my whole life, but could hardly be less interested in this World Series. I flip to it every inning or two, get my snapshot, then change the channel to something less Wagnerian.

The Suns and Coyotes have both started well, and their early successes do more for me than the World Series I was brought up to revere. On Saturday, Oregon demolishing USC riveted me more than baseball's premier event. I'm not even much of a football fan.

What happened? Why dont I care? Does my relative disinterest portend trouble for the future of commerical baseball?

One issue is that I like an underdog, and this Series has none. We're watching a pair of favored bullies - the defending champions and the Yankees, whose starting infield oozes more market value than all but a handful of 25-man rosters. Who, outside of oblivious Yankee lifers, would be psyched by a thinly disguised All Star team bludgeoning its way to a long overdue title?

The principals are also numbingly familiar. No one can hit Rivera's cutter. Posada whines at strikes that are called such. Jeter sticks his ass into the next county on pitches anywhere near the inside corner, trying to coax a walk. Wake me after it stops. I'm not saying it's not good baseball - they're among the best players at their respective positions. It's just predictable, familiar and boring as hell. This "classic's" biggest novelty is that for the first time in his overchronicled playoff career, Alex Rodriguez hasnt completely soiled his diaper.

On Philadelphia's side, is it dramatic when Brad Lidge blows a save, or Jimmy Rollins steals a bag? Will it be surprising when Ryan Howard finally 'runs into one'? Chase Utley just hit his fifth homer, tying Reggie Jackson for most in a single Series, yet Jackson's performance electrified baseball, whereas Utley's heroics - in bandboxes in a homer era - barely register.

The FOX TV production is also deathly familiar. I actually like Buck and McCarver more than most fans seem to, but there's precious little new to attend to here. Tired storylines compete with almost painful media attempts to fabricate new ones. In a particularly myopic bit of "research", Countdown's Keith Olbermann knighted Damon's scamper to third, against the Teixeira shift, the "smartest play in World Series history". Smart play, but give it a rest, Keith. The pitcher forgot to cover third.

The games are consistently too long. It's okay to have a long game once in a while, for dramatic contrast. But all the games run three and a half hours now, even when they're well pitched. There's a hundred reasons; patient hitters, unrestricted trips to the mound, wildness, longer ad breaks between innings, small strike zone, pitching changes, etc. The once crisp cadence of the game now resembles cricket, a court case, or occasionally, a thirty years war.

Flipping channels between sporting events, I'm deflated at how little transpires during a World Series game these days. I can watch three crisp shifts of hockey or an eighty yard football drive in the time it takes Nick Swisher to eventually pop out or Jorge Posada to whisper signals to Sabathia before each pitch. It's very hard to watch this in real time, particularly when other sports and entertainments capture my imagination with new faces, and convey more respect for their audience, with less operatic pacing.


Russell said...

Contrarily I really enjoyed the WS this year. Obviously it's only my second year in the "right" time zone and last year's was such a washout that I don't have much to compare it with.I didn't want the Yankees to win but since they haven't since 2000 it's not quite so galling.

There are however two worrying signs. Playing time as you say. Some innings become interminable and would be partially solved by my oft repeated (yet still not implemented) rule that every pitcher must pitch to three hitters or to the end of an inning, whichever comes sooner.

The other concern is the the fact that money seems to talk loudest this year. All four of the final teams spent significant amounts and won't be much weaker next year. if we start to see a Phillies-Dodgers/Yankees-Red Sox-Angels axis developing then yes my interest levels would drop too.

Finally, how anyone can watch more than 20 minutes of the NFL is beyond me.

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