Catches Made, Connections Lost
The Mets lost the National League title last night, but earlier in the game, Endy Chavez, the team's left fielder, made an incredible catch (one that takes an 'f' word to fully exclaim) to save a home run–and then wisely threw to the infield to start a double play and get the Mets out of the inning. Fox showed the amazing catch, what, about a dozen times? But it showed the whole play–the throw to the infield to create the double play–not even once.
So the stage is set: A Detroit-St. Louis World Series. Does that kill Fox in the Nielsens? Two boring markets? I would like to say no, but it probably does. The Tigers are a Cinderella story that lost something like 119 games just a few years ago. And it's Detroit. Don't they need a little cheering up, given that Motown is a little short on mojo? St. Louis, likewise, has lost at least half of its population in the last 20 years, but the Cardinals are beloved in almost all of the Flyover States that, according to Hollywood, abhor everything the movie/TV business does. (This is such B.S., by the way. Midwesterners hate showbiz for hating Midwesterners. That's as far as it goes.)
So here's a series that should have sentimental appeal–let's root for down-on-its heels Detroit and the Heartland Cardinals. And what's more: Neither team was supposed to be there. It sounds like a perfect script.
Except for this. Nobody cares. I truly wonder how, with the global economy–Flint, Grand Rapids, Dayton, or my hometown Cleveland—will ever get their mojo back. Combine that unsexy stretch of the country with baseball, a combination of all the things abandoned by the media/celebrity age, and the World Series has two strikes against it before the first pitch is thrown. Why? 1) Baseball is slow. It's actually deliberately slow at times. I sometimes think it ought to market itself that way. Nothing else is slow. 2). It demands loyalty. You're supposed to hang in there for at least 2/3 of the season, from April to say, mid-August, before you give up interest, and 3) Clout doesn't win. These days, it usually does. Think Donald Trump! Nothings from Detroit and St. Louis win (and I'm meaning this graciously, of course, being a born Clevelander, a town I still root for from the Orchestra to the Clinic to the Indians).
MLB or Fox or both have to find a compelling way to show how baseball defines, or amplifies, cities, regions, people. Not just with footage from idiots cheering in sports bars, but all the rest. If you think local pride is somehow for the yokels, review the last few minutes of last night's Mets game and look at the crying, crestfallen faces of people in the biggest city in America. Look at it that way and you'll start to understand how badly marketed baseball is, from a TV perspective. This is the very big sport that, I'll bet, as the ratings from the World Series come in, has drifted away.
Why not give PBS the rights to baseball? They did a nice documentary on it once. They'd know what to do with the pre game. Send Ken Burns right in. Let him tell us about the accumulated misery of the Philadelphia Phillies, the almost-always winning Atlanta Braves, my own Indians (We won in 1948!) and even how the Yankees losing (occasionally) really, truly bothers New Yorkers.
Wherever you are, chime in. I presume the Internet is available in your insignficant non-media town. (To be crystal clear, I'm being sarcastic.)
By P.J. Bednarski
New York-based Indians fan