We have been discussing for several years now about the shift in the nation's interest from baseball to football, and it is hard to argue with the raw numbers. The early games involving the pigskin currently are dominating many of the most important games involving the horsehide in the ratings once again in 2011.
And it's a shame. Baseball's postseason is producing an incredible degree of drama, the latest the walk-off win by the Rangers on Monday night in Arlington. Some are watching, but not enough considering the sheer entertainment value of the playoffs.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig told reporters Monday that he's OK with things.
"I'm satisfied. I really am," he said. "I think that having different clubs win is not bad at all. And I'm proud of that. But, you know, and I really mean this, what's better for ratings is something we just can't worry about. I think I looked at the last two weeks, it's been just miraculous. Produced great ratings, by the way, I might add. But that last Wednesday night of the season, only baseball — and I've said this before — could produce something like that."
And therein lies one of the three problems plaguing this year's mission to attract viewers, although it isn't Selig's or anyone else's fault. That final day of the regular season was so astounding, so wacky, so replete with edge-of-your-seat action that it has overshadowed much of what has followed.
By the time the postseason began two days later, we were only part of the way through retelling our stories to our co-workers and friends about how we wore out the batteries in our remote control.
Everyone who witnessed the events of Sept. 28, 2011, had to take a deep breath, step back and assess everything that had happened and what it meant in a game defined by its history. It made for a pretty tough act to follow.
So, when the postseason began two days later, it was little more than an afterthought to the discussion still raging about what some called "the greatest night in baseball history." Heck, in Boston we were saying goodbye to Terry Francona just as the Yankees and Tigers began their ALDS series that Friday night.
Fortunately for the New York or Detroit fans stuck at Yankee Stadium that night, the other problem reared its ugly head: Mother Nature.
Although the National League has remained untouched by the wet stuff, it disrupted the Yanks-Tigers series from the start and has sapped the Texas-Detroit ALCS matchup of any kind of momentum. Chances are that many thousands of people who planned on watching Game 2 of that series lost some interest after the rain-delayed series opener and then the 48 hours between contests. Thus, they missed Nelson Cruz's game-winning grand slam and all the nail-biting action that came before it.
Justin Verlander, the game’s best pitcher this year, has been in the middle of both rain events. He is now 1-1 with a 5.53 ERA in three starts, two of which were finished early because of rain. It just gives you this kind of feeling, doesn't it?
Some have made the point that the locations of the remaining teams hurt. They're all smaller or medium-sized markets in the central portion of the country, not exactly the type of teams that will light up sports bars in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
This is the third problem, although it goes beyond that. Even within most of these locales, there are great football stories taking place that have fought, and in many cases won, the fight for top billing.
The Brewers vie for attention alongside the undefeated Super Bowl champs and an unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers team that could be playing for a national title in a few months. Sure, those teams toil in Green Bay and Madison, but the state as a whole is a focal point for football right now.
It will be interesting to see how many TVs in the Detroit area were tuned to the Tigers game when Cruz hit his game-winner, for the Lions were in the process of improving to 5-0 for the first time in 55 years while playing in their first Monday Night Football game in a decade. Pick almost any year since Barry Sanders was in his prime and the Tigers would have center stage no matter what.
Indeed, the Packers and Lions are the only two unbeaten teams left in the NFL.
On the day that the ALCS began in Arlington, the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns tangled in their annual Cotton Bowl meeting. Crimson and cream and burnt orange were the colors of the day, not the red, white and blue of the Rangers. If and when that series goes to a seventh game, it will compete with the Cowboys traveling to New England and the Lions hosting the 4-1 San Francisco 49ers.
Nationally, football is king. In most of the cities involved in baseball's final four, that is definitely the case. Combine that with just enough inclement weather to disrupt momentum and a regular season finale that's tough to beat and you have a situation where some wonderful drama is being swept under the rug.