Bill Parcells (or maybe it's John Madden) likes to glorify football players who so come to play that you can toss the coin in the parking lot and they'll line up at midnight and knock the other guy on his ass. Wherever, whenever…they're ready.
I can dig that. I can dig the Mets winning wherever, whenever. As one who has meticulously inscribed the result of every single Mets game he has ever attended and as one who cherishes every single Mets win for which he has had the pleasure of inking a big ol' W, I'll take 'em where I can find 'em, wherever they put 'em, whenever I have to come and get 'em.
That said, even with the 201st win of my Log career easily secured and safely ensconced between 8:07 PM and 11:02 PM last night, even having benefited from whatever charge Johan Santana got out of an additional six hours and fifty-seven minutes' rest, I hereby introduce a measure to abolish Sunday Night Baseball.
Get it out of our lives. We don't like it, we don't need it, we don't want it.
We don't want to be on Sunday Night Baseball. We don't want to sit and stew for seven perfectly good hours on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We don't derive any bonus from the exposure on Sunday Night Baseball. My apologies to any Mets fans outside the immediate New York area who are grateful for a few dozen innings a year they wouldn't otherwise see, but it's not helping the greater good at all.
Find me the Mets fan who is relieved that Gary Cohen won't be doing play-by-play, who is enriched by Jon Miller. Find me the Mets fan who is so sick of Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling that he welcomes the insights of Joe Morgan. Find me the Mets fan who enjoys eschewing familiarity with his team for obnoxious relatives who barge in three or four times a year to get your story completely wrong, the kind of people who make you swear you will never, ever invite these people over for Thanksgiving again. Are you out there, mythical Mets fan who actually appreciates SNY getting Sunday off in favor of ESPN interpreting your team as some kind of poor relation? As some kind of auxiliary club activity for bored Gothamites?
I used to think being on national television was some kind of reward or recognition for a team, that it meant you'd made it, that you had earned extra attention, that everybody getting a look at you confirmed your progress or your status. Instead, it's punishment for us, the hardcore fans. We get nothing from it, not a damn thing. We're not privy to fantastic announcing we'd otherwise miss. We're not receiving a brilliant perspective from fresh eyes that will help us understand the big picture. We get Jon Miller's tired blowhard act and Joe Morgan's pompous nonsense.
And we get 8 o'clock starts. On a Sunday. On a Sunday! Who on earth wants to wait around until 8 o'clock to watch a baseball game that could easily be played at 1 o'clock? And who on earth wants to wait around until 8 o'clock to attend a baseball game that not only could easily be played at 1 o'clock, but was supposed to be played at 1 o'clock, that was scheduled to be played at 1 o'clock?
Some weeks ago, my friend Joe asked if I wanted to go to one of the Dodgers games. Sure, I said, how about Sunday? Fine, he said, I'll get tickets. And he did. And very quietly, the damn thing was rescheduled. It's not a particular hardship for me as I keep pretty malleable hours. But Joe, like most adults, has to get up very early Monday morning. Joe would rather shred his scorebook than leave a game before it's over. Rubbing his eyes red, we stayed.
We were not in the majority. It's unfortunate enough when the Mets go in the tank as they have so often this season and the seats empty well ahead of the ninth. But on a pleasant night with a lovely win in progress, thousands and thousands headed to the exits ahead of the conclusion, especially families. By the ninth, it was mostly drunken 17-year-olds holding sway in the mezzanine.
Why the abandonment of ship by so many? It's not because they don't like baseball, it's not because they don't like the Mets winning, it's not because they choose to flaunt their prosperity by not watching all the game they paid for. It's because it's frigging late for people. It's a school night, for goodness sake. If you live in Flushing or Corona, it's convenient. If you live anywhere else, it's not.
Now if the ticket said “8:05 PM,” then caveat emptor and so forth. But it didn't. ESPN makes this call. ESPN could have made this call months ago. ESPN could have figured out media market 1 was playing media market 2, that by the first of June neither team's marquee value or competitive prospects would be spent, that its phoney-baloney Joe Torre story line would be in effect and it could have issued an edict unto the Mets that Uncle ESPN Wants You. Instead, tens of thousands of seats were sold to an afternoon game — a Sunday afternoon game whose conclusion generally averts bedtimes of all ages — and thousands of seats no doubt went wasted because, hey, people have lives, even baseball fans. Many of those who didn't waste their tickets had to issue themselves a curfew.
Seven hours later than planned for. An hour later than a normal night game. Font for confusion among uninformed ticketholders. Fodder for Phil Mushnick. Three excruciating hours of Miller and Morgan. An excuse to cancel the Mr. Met Dash.
I'm not asking ESPN to get out of the baseball business. They do several things well. They produce wonderful research. They have that handheld camera that records homers going official when the batter steps on the plate. They have on their side many able minds, even if none of them belong to Steve Phillips. They can do a doubleheader some other night of the week. I'll complain far less if they can start on Sunday nights at 7:00, which is prime time for the rest of television. If they wanted to show only West Coast games on Sunday nights, when at least those would be 4:00 local games there, that would seem mildly fair to somebody. Instead, it's the same thing year in, year out. They take our Sunday afternoons and rob them from us. They stick our team on Sunday night and they shove their atrocious announcers down our throats. They keep us out past midnight or they chase us from our seats by ten. They get me griping after a 6-1 win, for gosh sakes.
I like the Mets winning. I like Johan finding his groove. I like Carlos Beltran blasting a “390-foot home run” to the base of the scoreboard (somebody get Shea a tape measure). I like Ryan Church standing and remaining in one piece and hitting, too. I like going to a Mets game wherever they put it, whenever they put it. But Sunday Night Baseball's unique charms are completely lost on me.