- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

It is fashionable to say football has taken over as our national pastime. But if this baseball postseason, culminating in the World Series between the New York Yankees and Florida Marlins, has shown us anything, it is deep down America is still a baseball nation.

It’s easy to follow the NFL. It is a marketing machine, forcing itself on our culture, and effectively so, as witnessed by its opening game and Super Bowl extravaganzas. And when it does have its troubles — the annual Al Davis lawsuits, the weekly police blotter reports — it never seems to impact the pleasure of the fans who simply want to see the game.

Let’s face it, no NFL commissioner ever canceled a Super Bowl.

As a nation, we lust for football, but we love baseball.

How else do you explain the increased television ratings for this postseason? I know, the presence of the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox had this magnetic attraction. However, the fact people still cared about the Red Sox and the Cubs so much they would be willing to watch in record numbers shows baseball doesn’t need to call on fireworks and music acts, that have no connection to the game whatsoever, to bring people back.

People still watch even when one of the game’s biggest stars, Sammy Sosa — the half of the Mark McGwire-Sosa duo credited with bringing so many fans back to the game in their 1998 home run battle — is caught cheating, using a corked bat.

People still watch even when players are accused by former players of using steroids and other performance enhancing substances to create the inflationary offensive numbers that dominate the game.

People still watch even though the Yankees buy their way into the postseason every year.

People still watch when a team from Florida, which had fans that barely showed interest during the season, winds up in the World Series.

People still watch even though baseball threatened to shut down two teams within hours of the end of the exciting seventh game of the World Series between the Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.

People still watch when the All-Star Game ends in a tie, and when one of the game’s most popular players can’t get into the Hall of Fame because of gambling.

And, most amazingly of all, people still watch even though nine years ago there was no World Series because the players went on strike and the owners, led by commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig, voted to cancel the postseason.

The list could go on as long as the 100 years they have been playing the World Series.

It is funny they keep alluding to this year being the 100th anniversary of the World Series, but the fact is this is the 99th World Series. In the record books, right between 1993, where it has Toronto (AL) 4, Philadelphia (NL) 2, and 1995, where Atlanta (NL) 4, and Cleveland (AL) 3 is listed, there is this entry: “1994. No World Series played.”

But here we are in 2003 and people can’t wait to watch and talk about the World Series. Even here in Washington, where we have been rooting for a team that hasn’t existed for more than 30 years, we have been caught up in the World Series hoopla.

It may not last. There are legitimate questions about a generation of young fans not growing up with the same passions for the game those before them had. They lust after something else.

Then again, lust doesn’t last.

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