Right about now, we should be getting a score on Game Two of the Cardinals and the Astros. They should be in the top of the second. Refresh buttons should be getting a workout. Radios should be finding stations they don't normally seek. And televisions should be tuned to Fox.
Afternoon games are an inconvenience to a large percentage of the baseball-loving population, but they're part of our matrix. We accept them. Day games are what we're conditioned to love. We trade off the ability to watch every pitch of every game when we're theoretically more available at night for the notion that baseball in daylight is how it's meant to be played and we'll catch as much of it as we can. And if we're fortunate enough to be near a TV during the late afternoon, then we feel like we've come into a little bonus.
But none of this is happening at the moment. Fox has decided to schedule two baseball games against each other tonight. They're putting Game Two of the ALCS on Fox and Game One of the NLCS on their FX cable channel. Except in markets where they're doing the opposite.
It's not the first time they've done this but it continues to amaze that Major League Baseball would allow its showcase event to be sliced and diced so thin as to make one portion of it nearly irrelevant. Are you the old-fashioned fan who gets up for a pennant being decided? Make a choice — N.L. or A.L. You can't have both.
But according to Jeanne Zelasko, you can. She actually said, during one of those insipid Sprint Game Breaks (if I were Sprint or any large company, I wouldn't want my name attached to anything that insults my customer's intelligence) that you don't have to choose between the NLCS and ALCS on Wednesday night, we've got them both.
Well, actually, placing one game on the broadcast network and shoving the other game to an auxiliary outlet where there is no baseball the rest of the year, makes us do precisely what you say we don't have to do. We do have to choose. If I want to watch Houston at St. Louis, I have to miss Los Angeles at Chicago. And if I want to follow the series that's already started, one that I'm a bit caught up in, then I have to eschew the one that I haven't seen any of yet.
I've had the reasoning explained to me as thus: Fox wants to air as many games in prime time as possible. But in two best-of-sevens, they are guaranteeing that their prime audience (and this is baseball, not the Winter Olympics, so these are mostly actual fans watching) will miss most of one. It could be 25% of a series right there, down the tubes.
That's our choice. Watch a game and miss a game or be a remote-control fiend.
That second choice doesn't work that well. Last year's Astro-Cardinal series got buried in New York by an avalanche of Red Sox-Yankees. That's understandable, but it wasn't necessary for Fox to hand out the shovels. One lousy 4 o'clock start on one lousy Wednesday afternoon for one Game One wouldn't kill them (they've scheduled a Wednesday afternoon if-necessary for next week anyway). It would do immense good for the hardcore fan to say nothing of the youngster who might be delighted to find a game he doesn't fall asleep on.
As for Minister of Propaganda Jeanne Zelasko (she must be an American relation of the Murdochs to have this job) and her “you don't have to choose” reassurance, I would say this is 1984, but in 1984, we didn't have to choose. All the League Championship Series games between the Padres and the Cubs and the Tigers and the Royals were on in their own individual time slots.