Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall of the Classic

I don't know when the National Pastime became the National Afterthought. Probably sometime back in the '60s when TV discovered the NFL, and suddenly Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus were filling up our Sunday afternoons.

At roughly the same time, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver were turning baseball into a word that began and ended with the letter "K." It was an unfortunate confluence of events, and now, 50 years later, American sport is the NFL and everything else -- to such an extent that even the World Series, once the pinnacle event in professional sports in this country, has become an off-Broadway production.

Consider: This is just another week in the NFL. The season isn't half finished. The playoffs don't begin for another two-and-a-half months. Things don't even  really heat up for another five weeks, or right around Thanksgiving.

And yet ... the Giants and the Royals will both wait until Tuesday night to begin the World Series, even though the Royals finished off the Orioles three days ago and the Giants booted the Cardinals two days ago. Although the Series schedule likely has been set for some time, there just as likely could have been a way to move up Game 1 to Sunday. Indeed, there was a day when moving the Series opener to a weekend as opposed to a weeknight date would have simply been sound business practice.

Not anymore.

No matter what logistical or contractual issues there might have been in moving Game 1 off Tuesday, baseball wouldn't have considered it anyway. And that's because it's now sound business practice to, as much as possible, avoid going head-to-head with an NFL Sunday -- even an ordinary NFL Sunday.

The reason is baseball's suits can read numbers as well as anyone, and they know what the numbers tell them: Every time baseball, even the Fall Classic, goes head-to-head with the NFL, it gets killed in the Nielsens. It's not even close.

And that, boys and girls, is astounding. Even in the Age of Football Uber Alles.

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