by John Furgele
In the next two weeks, there will be three themes in baseball. First, is the Tampa Bay Rays. If the Rays win the World Series, they will be the 21st century version of the 1969 Mets and will be called the greatest turnaround/upset in professional sports. Of course, it still would not overtake “Miracle on Ice”, in 1980.
Theme number two would be the Phiilies. Should they win, it will end the 25 year title drought for the sports crazy city of Philadelphia. Of course, all apologies to Jon Bon Jovi and his Arena Football Soul, the American Hockey League Philadlephia Phantoms and MISL Philadelphia Kixx. The last team to win a title was the 1982-1983 “We Owe You One” 76ers, who despite Moses Malone’s predictions of “fo, fo, fo (three four game playoff sweeps) went four, five, four, and finished it off by sweeping the Lakers in the 1983 Finals. The city is starving and certainly doesn’t want the drought to continue by losing to a team that has been playing for only 11 years and has changed names and playing surfaces at theior domed stadium.
Theme number three will be the lamenting of the football drinking sports talk hosts that will not watch the Word Series because there aren’t “national teams” involved. Remember, sports talk around the nation is football centered, mainly because if these hosts don’t talk about football 90 percent of the timem, they will face sanctioning by the powerful National Football League. If Tampa Bay played Buffalo in the Super Bowl, these hosts would be drooling and would use words like “overcome,: “against the odds,” “unity,” and “odds defying.” But, in baseball, it’s small market Tampa Bay and provincial Philadlephia so why bother? In sum, the hosts are too lazy to watch and study baseball to actually know what they’re talking about, so they use the old “Fox didn’t want this matchup,” and “America is not captivated by Rays-Phillies,” as an excuse not to watch. They’re thinking is simple. If America doesn’t watch, then I don’t have to and furthermore, I don’t have to talk about on my show the next day.” But, they’ll discuss if Jerry Jones should fire Wade Phillips 22 more times before the week ends.
Sports talk has become theme centered. It is much easier to talk about the woes of the Dallas Cowboys, the woes of the Cincinnati Bengals, the pretenders and the contenders and should this coach be fired than it is to actually break down teams like the Rays and the Phillies, and with football, it is easy because they play once a week and in our ADHD society that plays better. Following baseball, basketball and hockey requires work because they play GAMES and that makes it harder to do a theme based show. It would have been easier to promote Dodgers-Red Sox, because there would have been a theme to sell—The Manny Ramirez Saga. That saga would be easier to break down than breaking down who the Rays will use as their closer in the World Series.
But, the two best teams are here. The Rays won the AL East, and outscored, outhit and outpitched the Red Sox in what turned out to be a thrilling seven game ALCS. The Cubs may have had the better record in the National League, but you can’t call a team the best when they can’t even win one Division Series game. The Phillies were better than Milwaukee and simply outclassed the Ramirez led Dodgers in the NLCS, winning 80 percent of the games in their 4-1 series win.
Yes, the series will likely not be a ratings winner, unless it is competitive. If the teams spilt the first two games, then head to Game 5 tied 2-2, the series will pick up viewers, and if there is a Game 7, America will be there. Even though football is the new king, Americans still hold onto baseball because it has been around the longest and they will never completey abandon it. And, let’s remember that the 1985, 1987, 1991 and 1997 World Series remain four of the five highest rated series since 1985 and none of those series had big, national teams with Royals-Cardinals in 1985; Twins-Cardinals in 1987; Twins-Braves in 1991; and Marlins-Indians in 1997. The one theme in those series was each had a Game 7 and with the exception of Royals-Cardinals in 1985, each series was tied at 2-2 heading into Game 5. The Royals trailed the Cards 3-1, but won Game 5 in St. Louis, won Game 6 with some help from Don Denkinger, and then took the series in Game 7.
And, finally aren’t there over four million people living in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area? Back in 1977, this was a smaller market, but not anymore. People still think of the old Northeast as population hubs, but think about it, which area is growing faster: Philadelphia or Tampa Bay? Doesn’t everybody that lives in the Northeast or Midwest know somebody who has moved to Florida, Arizona or Las Vegas by now?
So, if Sports Talk Nation wants to take the easy way out, go ahead and use the nobody is watching theme. If you did your homework—like you’re supposed to do—you know that the best two teams are here.