Erik Ritland Sports Ramble, 10/14/12

In this issue…

1. Baseball v. Football Why the baseball playoffs are infinitely more interesting than any regular season week in the NFL.
2. Baseball Playoff Recap Surprising teams, shocking comebacks, and historic games.
3. NFL Week 6 Preview

The Baseball Playoffs > Another Boring Week in the NFL
The best TV not enough people are watching

At noon central time today millions of rubes across America will tune in to watch “their team” play football. Some people’s team is the Cleveland Browns; others the Buffalo Bills. People will watch dull football games with abysmal teams or tune in to games that are completely lopsided and still somehow muster up the excitement to, like, yell at their TVs and sweat until their facepaint comes off.

It’s not that I don’t get it. Football, for many reasons, is mainstream America’s favorite sport. It’s “fast paced.” There’s lots of HITTING AND SMASHING! Millions of dollars have gone into successful advertising campaigns. The NFL has successfully manipulated TV on every level, radio on most levels, and has saturated the internet. That and, y’know, it’s a fun game and everything. I get it.

But what I don’t get is people who are such sheep that they pedestalize football and everything about it while always talking down to baseball or calling it boring. Maybe it isn’t baseball that is boring; maybe it’s the individual that doesn’t have the patience to understand the intricacies of baseball in our fast food, easy answer, zero attention span culture that are boring. Truthfully, football is often pretty boring, too. Most of the game is handoffs that don’t go anywhere, short completions, punts, field goals, and undramatic incompletions.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of both football and baseball. It’s just sad that so many Americans and mainstream sports fans have missed some of the best baseball in decades this week yet they’ll dutifully watch, say, the Chiefs play the Buccaneers today and think it’s great, even if the score is 35-3 Tampa Bay (which it probably will be).

There’s something to be said about being well-rounded. For example, being well-rounded is the opposite of being one-dimensional. Being well-rounded is good. Being one-dimensional is bad. A well-rounded person gains all sorts of unique, wide-ranging experiences and enjoys a variety of things. A one-dimensional person only likes particular things, is picky, and is stuck in their ways.

I’m not saying that all football fans are one-dimensional or that all baseball fans are well-rounded. There are all kinds on each side. It’s just important to be well-rounded either way.

MLB Playoff Recap

Where to start? Well, the underdog won in both of the wild-card games, the Cardinals knocking off the Braves and the Orioles beating last years AL champion and highly touted Texas Rangers. Of the four league division series that followed each of them came down to the very end, going the full five games. The favorite Cincinnati Reds took a quick two game lead on the often haphazard seeming San Francisco Giants who then surprisingly won the next three games to take the series. While the Tigers and Yankees were both heavy favorites their opponents, the Cinderella A’s and Orioles respectively, gave them a tough fight. Although it’s sad that their seasons came to an end watching them stay competitive and have heart to the end was inspiring.

The Cardinals celebrate coming back from a 6-0 deficit to defeat the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Then there was the most improbable series in every way: the Cardinals and Nationals. Nobody picked the Cardinals to beat the Braves; fewer picked them to beat the Nationals. But they were able to pull it off by combining (mostly) solid pitching with timely hitting. Most exciting was game 5. The Nationals took an early 6-0 lead before the Cardinals started chipping away. Soon it was 6-3. Then 6-4. 6-5 turned into 7-5 going into the bottom of the 9th. St. Louis then improbably scored 4 runs off of Nationals’ star closer Drew Storen to take the game and the series. The look of dejection on the faces of the Nationals, especially Jason Werth, was almost pitiable. It was the 6th elimination game in a row that the Cardinals have won, tying their own record.

There were plenty of games in each series that were historic. On the same night that the A’s scored three runs off Jose Valverde in the bottom of the 9th to force a game five in that series Raul Ibanez hit both the game-tying and game-winning home run in their game against the Orioles. Then the next night the Orioles won dramatically in extra innings. Many games were decided by two runs or less, there were dominant pitching performances from legends CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, memorable relief appearances by the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum, and more October magic from Mr. Octobino Delmon Young.

All in all the playoffs have been everything a baseball fan could want and more. I don’t expect the rest of the baseball postseason to disappoint.

NFL Week 6 Preview

Surprisingly almost every game in the NFL should be worth watching this week. The Vikings try to keep their run going, the Packers try to stay contenders against the undefeated Texans, Romo and Flacco will face off in the never-lived-up-to-expectations bowl, Peyton Manning takes on Philip Rivers, the 49ers host the Giants, my Lions attempt to take out the lucky Philadelphia Eagles, and hopefully Andrew Luck and the Colts can beat the obnoxious Jets.

Quickly now, here are my picks:

Minnesota at Washington I’m going to continue picking against the Vikings until they lose. Hopefully I’m their good luck charm.
Green Bay at Houston The Packers know what’s on the line here. Bold prediction: if the Packers lose they will not make the playoffs.
St. Louis at Miami Who would have thought, at the beginning of the season, that this would be a good game by two competitive teams? Miami’s at home but the Rams are a slightly stronger team.
New England at Seattle This pick is probably more wishful thinking than steeped in reality but Seattle is one of my favorite Cinderella teams. The crowd in Seattle will get in to it, the Seattle defense will keep Brady running, and perhaps they’ll pull it out.

The rest…
Dallas at Baltimore
NY Giants at San Francisco
Denver at San Diego
Oakland at Atlanta
Cincinnati at Cleveland
Indianapolis at NY Jets
Detroit at Philadelphia
Kansas City at Tampa Bay
Buffalo at Arizona

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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