Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The World Series Pick: St. Louis In Six And (Proportionally) Few Care

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First, let's get the commerce out of the way, seeing how I'm 5-1 in predicting series to date, and you might actually think that my opinion has some actual worth. Give me St. Louis despite the lack of home field advantage, since they are better in the rotation and defense, and these things matter more when the games are tight. I also think Michael Wacha has got the stuff to put up zeroes in Fenway, that Boston isn't going to get the continued monster late game homers that made the series with Detroit winnable, and that the series is going to go long. Give me the Cards in six, maybe even seven, with Wacha and Wainwright getting it done for them.

Here's the most iron-clad prediction of all: America, by an overwhelming majority, isn't going to watch it.

Why? Well, because baseball has two fan bases now: the regular season mercenary nit gamblers of fantasy, and the regional bases for the main. Since there isn't anything close to a dynasty now, and fantasy sports have made hating fan bases much more likely than hating players, there isn't nearly the same juice to root against a team. So if you aren't rooting for one of these clubs, you aren't watching the games and rooting for the other side.

And, well, there are a lot of Red Sox and Cardinals fans, but an awful lot more who aren't. Trust me, Red Sox and Cardinal Fan, the Cub and Yankee audience stopped watching baseball a long time ago, and will not watch a minute more of it in 2013. If your team loses, they'll be a little happy and relieved; if your team wins, a little bent, but we are a distracted nation with an ever-shrinking attention span, and relief from outcomes that do not make us happy is just a Netflix queue, on-demand DVR, or burst of Web video away. As soon as your series is over, they'll start the clock for spring training as if 2013 never happened. The only people who are going to be bitter about your win are, well, the fans of the other team in this series. And neither of you care about them, since you only ever run into those guys once every five to ten years, when you both find each other in a Series again.

Next, there's the schedule. Game Four of the Series runs against Packers-Vikings on SNF, and as meh of a matchup as that is with Josh Freeman hurting the grass with footballs, it's still going to get 3X the rating of even a potential season-ending baseball game. Game 5 runs against Seahawks-Rams on MNF, and Seattle is getting a ton of interest now as the seeming favorite to go to the Super Bowl in the NFC. Game Seven is Thursday, and would run against Bengals at Dolphins on Terrible Night Football. Even that game, assuming the series goes that long, is probably going to outdraw baseball. Even on the freaking NFL Network.

That's because football is not just king in America, but also Ace, Queen, Jack and every other card in the deck. Baseball might still be the best game to actually watch at the venue, and if the team you are emotionally invested in makes it, it will take over your time, same as always. But the game has no casual fans any more. All of those people have fantasy football teams now, and many more ways to entertain themselves than Joe Buck and Tim McCarver and all of the other olds who want to pretend that baseball is the same as it ever was. It's not, especially if you are under 35. (And if you really want to hurt MLB Fan, compare their game's numbers to the WWE... or that, short of the Dodgers beating the Cardinals, this was far and away their best hope for "big" ratings. A Tampa-Oakland series, they might have shown on FX, rather than Fox...)

Oh, and if you think I'm overstating this? Last week's MNF game was between the 0-6 Giants and the 1-5 Vikings. The game was, somehow, even worse to watch. And 15 million people tuned into it. Yeesh.)

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