Made-for-TV baseball gets cold shoulder


Ah, the World Series. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the endless commercials, the nonstop promos for one dopey sitcom after another, the four-hour games how can you not love it?

Some observations from a lifelong baseball fan as the Fall Classic -- or is it the Taco Bell Fall Classic now? -- between the Yankees and Braves gets under way:

It's a tad brisk to be playing "the Summer Game" now, isn't it?

Baseball sold its soul to the devil Television a long time ago. But apparently no one told the network executives that when they schedule night games, in northern climes, in late October, it can often get, oh, what's the word we're looking for here? Cold.

Real cold.

At Boston's Fenway Park during the final game of the Yankees-Red Sox league championship series, the wind-chill factor was 26 degrees.


No wonder the fans in the stands were dressed like spectators at the Iditarod race. No wonder Pedro Martinez was sitting in the Red Sox dugout wearing what appeared to be the world's largest pair of oven mitts.

Memo to network execs: New York in October is not exactly Montego Bay, either.

Baseball is always wailing about its diminishing fan base and wondering why the World Series doesn't captivate young fans like it used to.

How about this for a reason: They can't watch it anymore.

My youngest kid is 8 years old. And he loves baseball. But on school nights, with the World Series starting at 8: 30, he gets to watch about an inning and a half if he's lucky before bedtime.

Boy, what memories he'll have when he's older! ("I'll never forget Game 3 of the '99 Series. Saw David Cone strike out the side, then I watched this killer Ameritech commercial. Then I had to go to bed.")

Speaking of commercials, if I see one more for the Colonel's Kentucky Fried Chicken sandwich or one more Wendy's spot where that big load Dave is driving a stock car while the pit crew chows down on his burger, I'm going to lose my mind.

As for that annoying Taco Bell spot where the cops burst in on the guy and tell him to drop the chalupa look, I don't even know what a chalupa is, OK?

But I'd like to see a large explosive device attached to the head of everyone in that commercial, including that stupid talking chihuahua.

When did this whole instant-replay thing get out of control?

It used to be that after a controversial play -- an argued strike three call, for instance, or a lunging catch over the outfield fence -- you'd see a replay once.

Maybe you'd see it twice.

Now we see the play six or seven times, from three or four different angles.

Hey, this isn't the Zapruder film! We don't need to see the same thing over and over again. The guy struck out on a 3-2 fastball inside! Now let's get on with our lives.

Do we really need a tight shot of the pitcher's face after he gives up a game-winning homer, or the batter's face when he strikes out with the bases loaded?

Do we really need to read their lips?

My guess is neither of these guys are mouthing "Que sera, sera" after screwing up.

So why do I need to see these guys mouth "Aw, @#$&!" and then have my 8-year-old chirp: "He said a bad word, didn't he?"

Oh, you betcha, son. Ol' Lefty said a couple of bad words there. Now go to bed.

Who's the genius who thought putting a microphone on a first base coach or third base coach would make for riveting sports reportage?

Look, base coaches have nothing to say. For the most part, they have pretty dull jobs. This is like the networks covering a meeting of the president's Cabinet and putting a mike on the Secretary of Agriculture.

What's the most exciting thing a base coach can say?

"Get back!"


"Go, go, go!"

I think I'd be able to sleep at night knowing I'd missed scintillating remarks such as those.

One final request: Hey, network broadcasters, can we lighten up on the esoterica?

Do we really need to know that "this is the first time in Series history that a bald, left-handed reliever from the Dominican Republic with an ERA under 3.53 has pitched in the fourth inning of a Game 2?"

Where's that chalupa commercial when you need it?

TV's top shows

Here are last week's top TV shows, according to A. C. Nielsen Co. figures:


1 ER NBC 20.6

2 Frasier NBC 13.9

2 (tie) Friends NBC 13.9

4 Everybody Loves Raymond CBS 12.3

5 Touched by an Angel CBS 12.2

6 NBC Baseball Playoffs -- Game 5, Atlanta at N.Y. Mets NBC 12.0

7 Law and Order NBC 11.7

7 Judging Amy CBS 11.7

7 60 Minutes CBS 11.7

10 Sunday Movie: Silk Hope CBS 11.4

The rating is the percentage of homes equipped with a TV in use.

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