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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Dancing With the Non-Entities

Game Four of the World Series (in St. Louis, not my imagination) was rained out last night. May be rained out tonight. Or maybe tomorrow. Who can keep up?

Who cares to?

Back when we were just some second-rate, second-division afterthought, I probably would have. Baseball fans watch baseball games and I'm a baseball fan. Yet after our having filled the collective role of Icarus from April 3 to October 19, I suspect a lot to most of us wing-melted Mets fans have landed on Pluto where this Tiger-Cardinal matchup is concerned. And we're not alone. Dancing With The Stars outrated Game Three of the freaking World Series and that was with Game Three going off as scheduled. On a Thursday night, which is übercompetitive in network television to begin with (even without new eps of Earl and The Office, dang it), I suspect the numbers will plunge to Bob Gibson 1968 levels.

I'd like to believe it's because America is absolutely mournful that its Mets — how could a team as beautiful as ours belong to merely a single city? — are missing from action. But that's not it. The World Series ain't what it used to be in terms of national glue and it has nothing to do with participant market size. I really miss those days when baseball was everything to everybody even if I never lived in them. In Memories of Summer, the great Roger Kahn described the phenomenon of autumn as it existed when he prepared to cover his first Fall Classic in 1952, New York (A) at Brooklyn:

Six hundred of the best and most popular sportswriters in the country would cover every inning of every game. The ranks included [...] Vincent X. Flaherty of San Francisco. The closest major league stadium, Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, stood 2,140 miles east of Flaherty's home base, but the old World Series transcended geography. It was a front page story across the country, especially exotic to people who lived thousands of miles away. Few Americans had seen anything more of a World Series than patchy black-and-white scenes worked into newsreels. Those glimpses left imagination free to roam.

Now the World Series is just something Fox airs so it can plug the BCS and Brad Garrett. The USA doesn't need an excuse to ignore it. Giving it the mostly anonymous Tigers and momentarily overachieving Cardinals certainly helps, though.

A few days ago, stripped of fresh Met nits to pick, my regular e-mail group was trying to realign baseball to buy us a more favorable outcome. I've read everything from four eight-team divisions to eight four-team divisions (we're expanding, apparently). I'm tempted to say let's just go back to two leagues: the Mets in one, everybody else in another, us in the World Series no matter what.

The root of my friends' not altogether unreasonable gripe with the system is how the fudge can a 97-win behemoth like ours sit home while some non-entity that barely finished over .500 gets t-shirts and stuff? Of course we all pay lip service to 1973, but it is frustrating when October Madness places the Red shoe on the other foot, namely ours. I took it as total sour grapes until I read Sports Illustrated and it was noted that “St. Louis had 83 wins, which ranked them 13th among Major League teams this year.”

THIRTEENTH? Really? Geez. How did that happen?

Oh yeah, we stopped hitting.

I doubt the Dancing With The Stars crowd would be moved by statistical niceties, but 13th-winningest team is a little jarring. The Blue Jays were better. The Phillies were better. Nearly half of baseball was better. In 1973, only eight teams had more wins than us (“only,” he says with a straight face). But 1973 was…well, it was 1973. It was a magic fluke. The Cardinals, at least until they reveal themselves transcendent, are just some decent team from a lousy division that got on a roll when somebody else fell into a slump. They're also two wins from a world championship.

Rain. Don’t rain. Whatever.

Programming Notes:

• While the Mets gave away a World Series last week, we will attempt to give away a World Series DVD tomorrow, the one with highlights from 1969 and 1986, two years when baseball's playoff setup was astoundingly perfect. There will be a quiz, for which I offer this advance hint: title & artist.

• Next week, look for a proper Faith and Fear retrospective on that semi-championship season, 2006. I don't know what's going to happen in 2007, but I'm pretty handy with a rearview mirror.

15 comments to Dancing With the Non-Entities

  • Anonymous

    I was thinking about the ratings yesterday. The Tigers are a feel good story and have been all year. One would think that the ratings would be relatively decent; that at least everyone in the Midwest would tune in, plus you'd get baseball fans from the coasts.
    However, it appears that if you don't have a New York team, the Red Sox and their national network of fans, or maybe a Chicago team, no one watches.

  • Anonymous

    Certainly Cardinal Nation should be big enough to keep this thing from lowest…rated…episode…ever.
    Last year there was a Chicago team, albeit not the cuddly one, and that Series set negative records. In 2002, the Southern California market was involved and it ranked low.
    No matter how attractive the matchup (save for perhaps the Red Sox versus the Cubs before either team shook off its curse), I think it's indicative of how far baseball has fallen from top-of-mind status. Though our showdown with the Sox in 1986 drew the most viewers, the highest ratings ever (percentagewise), I believe, were summoned by the Phillies and Royals, neither team with a huge national following in its day, one of whom was from as small a market as MLB had or has. But that was 26 years ago. Although there are more than 300 million of us now, a lower percentage than ever watches baseball. More stuff to watch and do and all that.
    The Super Bowl, for all its hype, doesn't get ratings close to what it earned in the early '80s, but it ain't getting beat by Dancing With The Stars.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps if the World Series were one game for all the marbles, and even non-fans tuned in just for the commercials, we might just be able to outdraw the Super Bowl.
    Football has 16 regular games, a few playoff games and then it's over with one game. No wonder everyone watches. Blink and it's gone. Unlike baseball, which is on basically every day for 7 months. Maybe if we played hard-to-get like football, our fleeting appearances would score big too.
    Baseball rules.

  • Anonymous

    Face it, folks. Baseball is becoming a niche sport, and largely a northeastern one at that.
    It ranks far below college as well as NFL football in the national conciousness.
    Heck, when you talk about the number 3 being retired, most American sports fans think of Dale Earnhardt (don't bother correcting it, I don't care if I spelled it right or not.)

  • Anonymous

    I (whether I like it or not) think of Babe Ruth. Certainly not a number painted on a car being driven around in circles by someone I wouldn't recognize if he decided to haunt me tonight. Oh, and driving around in circles is not a “sport.” It's a hobby. And people who watch cars driving around in circles can hardly be called “sports fans.” Not everything people compete in can be termed a “sport” (two words… spelling bee), and not everyone who watches… the spelling bee can be considered a “sports fan.”
    As for college football, since I don't have kids, I don't have all that much interest in their sporting exploits… unless of course I'm entered in the office pool and there's a few bucks riding on it. I prefer my amateur athletes to be televised every four years, smiling brightly on the podium as medals are hung around their necks.
    Long live baseball. Criticism of it brings out the worst in me.

  • Anonymous

    Someone criticized baseball?
    To point out that baseball is about as much the national pastime as hockey is at this point is not a criticism as much as it is an observation.
    I agree with you in that it's by far the best sport; I don't care either way about its television ratings or whether kids particularly like it. I love it. What the rest of the country watches is its business. Thus I feel no need to denigrate college football, NASCAR, etc.

  • Anonymous

    No, YOU didn't, but I hear this crap all over the place.
    If they can denigrate what I watch, I reserve the right to do the same. I'm personally tired of hearing about how baseball's boring, it's dying, it's crap, etc. from people whose taste in “sports” I cannot fathom, but I never actually put it into words until tonight. I have never criticized their taste (not out loud, and certainly not to their faces) but they delight in criticizing mine. I know people who like NASCAR but think baseball is boring, and never miss an opportunity to point that out. Yet when they bring up their NASCAR nonsense, I politely feign interest and act like yeah, that must have been a blast…
    OK, so tonight for the first time I shot back. Throw me in jail.

  • Anonymous

    Note to self:
    Laurie gets really, really grouchy when Mets are eliminated same week she gets a year older.
    Do not engage.
    Do NOT engage.

  • Anonymous

    Note to albertsonmets:
    Laurie gets really, really grouchy when baseball is about to disappear for MONTHS and leave her with nothing but the friggin' JETS. >:-(
    But thanks for reminding me about being a year older. You know you're not supposed to bring up a lady's age… but I guess you could tell you ain't dealin' with no lady. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    I know baseball never gets ratings anymore, but this series is particularly depressing. It's the Cardinals who are (a) gross, with Spezio's creepy beard, Pujol's arrogant leering grin, Belliard's disgusting slithery tongue, (b) unbelievably dull and (c) managed by Tony LaGenius vs. the Tigers, who in my eyes lost all their redemptive charm the moment they covered up for cheating. This is the Detroit Tigers, the organization of Kaline and Greenberg, the feel-good boot-straps story of 2006, and they turned into another Yankee clone: whatever it takes to win. Get away with what you can. I really want both teams in this series to lose, but that can't happen, so I'm rooting for beanballs and injuries.
    I'd like to think that's why these ratings are historically low. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the real reason is because this is the first World Series that's ever had to go up against “Dancing with the Stars” (AKA “Stumbling with The People I've Never Heard Of [And Sometimes Evander Holyfield]“).

  • Anonymous

    To paraphrase Deep Throat:
    “Ratings, schmatings: FOLLOW THE MONEY!”
    At the risk of sounding like a Seligshill, the game has broken attendance figures — AGAIN! — this year and the biz is so awash in cash that neither side could work up any rancor during the CBA negotiations, to the extent that the settling of the deal was barely a footnote to the sports pages.
    The game is rich, the game is fun, the game is fine.
    Thus endeth the MLB propaganda for today…

  • Anonymous

    World Series ratings have been dropping for many years now. My own opinion regarding this continuing decline is because the series has been transformed from a competition between two championship teams going for the ultimate prize to the final round of survivors from a post-season elimination tournament ala the NBA, NFL and NHL.
    Leo Durocher had said “nobody remembers who finished second”. Today, we have no choice, not when the TV commentators mention how Detroit lost the division title on the last day of the season. The Series has lost it's distinctive charm.
    When the Mets won the NL crown in 1973, they were still division champions in a winner-take-all pennant race. As some might have guessed, I'm one of Greg's email buddies who is screaming a return to the two-division season.
    - Joe

  • Anonymous

    I think I love you, Charlie.

  • Anonymous

    Aaawwwww… ;-)

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree, Charlie! The money's pouring in – it's gotta be coming from somewhere!
    I have to admit, though, this is the first time in the 10 years I've been a baseball fan that I have not watched the World Series carefully. I've been tuning in and out, and favoring cartoons. I never thought I'd be that kind of fan. I'm a little disappointed in myself.
    It should've been us…