Favorite

The national pastime 

For readers who skip the sports page, an update: there are no New York teams in the MLB playoffs this season. The Mets were dreadful right out of spring training, while the Yankees high-salaried lineup succumbed to age and injury.

Prominent was tabloid bad boy A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez, the handsome third baseman whose well-publicized woes keep him in a dead heat with teen trollop Miley Cyrus for the title of America's Most Tedious Celebrity.

How long before they're photographed leaving a nightclub together?

But I digress. With no New York teams in the running, it follows that tout le monde has wearied of baseball. That's a French phrase signifying "everybody who matters."

Not you, Pittsburgh. Oakland? Fuggedaboutit.

It was therefore inevitable that the lordly New York Times would greet the playoffs with a mighty ho-hum in the form of an essay by Jonathan Mahler entitled "Is the Game Over?" Because the Super Bowl gets much higher TV ratings than the World Series, all the luster is supposedly gone from the game once called "America's Pastime."

Oddly, Mahler's main journalistic credential is "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning," his book about the serial killer "Son of Sam," the 1977 Yankees of Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson fame, and owner George Steinbrenner — the Donald Trump of his time.

Anyway, never mind, as Mahler concedes, that baseball has achieved competitive balance and overall financial success it never enjoyed during its "golden age," i.e. when he (and I) were small boys. There have been seven different World Series champions in the past 10 years, only one of them the Yankees. By every objective measure except national TV ratings, the game's thriving.

Today he thinks NFL football has all the advantages. "Teams play only once a week, and when the postseason arrives, every game is an elimination game," Mahler writes. "But its real advantage is that it's louder, faster and more violent — which is to say, better in tune with our cultural moment."

It's an advantage to play only once a week? That's just one reason I've always regarded the NFL as a colossal bore. Sure the Super Bowl's a huge TV event in January, when half the country's stuck indoors, eager to get loaded and gamble. At most Super Bowl parties I've attended, people hardly watch except when the hardcore guys start yelling.

College football's much the same. Where I live in SEC territory, football fans devote months to obsessive chatter about the upcoming season. Then come three or four cupcake games, a handful of exciting conference matchups, maybe a bowl game, and then eight more months of phoning radio talk shows to gossip about high school recruits and conspire against the coach.

Are they even sports fans, these people? Some, sure. But a lot of them are mainly there for the identity politics and the party.

Meanwhile, I watch major league baseball almost every day from April to October — with occasional pilgrimages to the ballpark. I once overheard an impertinent woman ask my wife why she let me. Diane answered that she was a baseball coach's daughter, and sometimes watches with me. (I guarantee you she can name the Red Sox starting lineup.) She added that I don't supervise her pastimes, and that we do better when we don't try to push each other around.

Did she never tire of it? "Sometimes," she said. "But he's home. He's sober, and he's not out making a fool of himself in some titty bar."

Boys, if you get a chance, marry a coach's daughter.

So why does even the NBA's Game of the Week on ABC, Mahler wonders, get almost double the ratings of Major League Baseball on Fox?

It's the nature of the game, as New York-centric writers focused upon national TV ratings fail to grasp. See, I don't just watch baseball. I watch the Boston Red Sox. (To me, the MLB Extra Innings TV package is the greatest bargain in sports.) It's not a once-a-year spectacle. It's an imaginative commitment, like reading "War and Peace," one chapter at a time.

Not to go all literary on you. Baseball players are jocks, not English professors. Most highfalutin literary appreciations of the game go right by them.

I'm talking about the daily grind of baseball: the interplay of character and personality, and the thousand-and-one strategic and tactical decisions that make the game so uniquely absorbing to players and serious fans.

But incomprehensible to the once-a-year viewer who hasn't followed the story line.

Economically, it's in local broadcasts where loyalties abide and the game thrives. The national game of the week is an anachronism, dating to when it was the only baseball on TV. Me, I'm watching NESN. It follows that many fans lose interest in post-season play unless their team's involved.

Pretty much like Mahler and his fellow provincials at the New York Times.

Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Trump's first days

    Never mind that President-elect Trump and his keenest supporters have gone from boasting to whining in two short weeks.
    • Nov 23, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Killer's failure

    Has any murdering terrorist ever failed more dramatically than Dylann Storm Roof? Like any punk with a gun, he managed to slaughter nine blameless African-American Christians at an historic church in Charleston, S.C. Intending to start a race war, he succeeded only in shocking the moral conscience of the state and nation.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Obama takes long view

    Right now, it's beginning to look as if President Obama will end up deserving the Nobel Peace Prize he was so prematurely awarded in 2009.
    • Jul 23, 2015
  • Trump and political correctness

    So I see where candidate Donald Trump and former Gov. Sarah Palin are complaining about "political correctness," the supposedly liberal sin of being too polite to tell the unvarnished truth. Me too. I've always laughed at the follies of self-styled "radical" left-wing professors.
    • Sep 3, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Trump's first days

    Never mind that President-elect Trump and his keenest supporters have gone from boasting to whining in two short weeks.
    • Nov 23, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • Oh, calm down, Mr. L. and Mr. G. Stop having hissy fits. Instead of behaving…

    • on December 8, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • As we saw with the raise in the minimum wage and medical marijuana, there are…

    • on December 8, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • Ozark,

      What are the Arkansans marching and rallying about? Is this an anti-Trump rally?

    • on December 8, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation