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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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The Champions of Channel 39

Good thing Russ Hodges doesn't work for TBS. Because if he reacted in 2007 as he did in 1951 to the clinching of the National League flag, he could do no more than whisper that excuse me, I don't mean to wake you, but, uh, the Rockies won the pennant, the Rockies won the pennant. No, don't get up. It's not that big a deal. I'll tell you about it in the morning.

Report it any louder and he'd probably get sued for violating noise control statutes.

I watched Troy Tulowitzki throw out Eric Byrnes at first base to end an improbable sweep of the NLCS. Then I looked at the clock: 1:38 AM. The pennant had been won when a large chunk of the potential audience was asleep. And ignored.

What were they doing putting the National League Championship Series on so late? And what were they doing putting it on basic cable? Perhaps it is anachronistic and overly romantic of me to believe that if you can't be in prime time then you should be in daylight, but this was, at best, truly unfortunate, and at worst, a broadcasting farce.

Twenty-two minutes before two in the morning. The champions of the world's oldest professional baseball league were crowned at twenty-two minutes before two in the morning. Disgraceful.

Yes, I know the game was taking place in another time zone. May as well have been taking place on another continent. I'm sure Rockies fans in and around Denver didn't mind staying up kind of late to see their first-ever ticket for the World Series get punched at 11:38 PM MDT. We're all used to baseball games that go on and on (though this one was over in a relatively tidy 3:17). But this wasn't the Western Conference final. This wasn't a regional affair. This was the NATIONAL League title on the line. The whole nation deserved a look at the Rockies and their historic polishing off of the Diamondbacks. Every baseball fan should have had easier and earlier access to this amazing story of an upstart that rose from mediocrity to 21 wins in 22 games.

Instead it's news to them. Somebody somewhere decided sticking half the LCS action on at 10:21 PM Eastern was a good idea. Somebody else decided it was OK to let the other series in the DH league take five-minute breaks between pitches. Probably the same somebody figured out the more off days, the better. The World Series between the solar-hot, soon-to-be-cooling-their-heels Rockies and the Indians or Red Sox won't start until a week from tomorrow. Baseball will recede even further from coast-to-coast consciousness until then.

Even a seven-game barnburner in the ALCS will proceed at a snail's pace. Game Four is tonight. Game Five is Thursday night. They built in an extra off-day for the travel between Cleveland and Cleveland. That's right, there's no game Wednesday. If it goes seven, there will be baseball on Saturday and Sunday. Then, eight days from now, there will be a World Series.

Will anybody outside the two towns directly involved remember it's on?

This is such a shame. The Rockies deserve better. The A.L. winner deserves better. Baseball fans deserve better. Baseball keeps taking bows for drawing record attendance in 2007 then hides its crown jewels. Every year they keep finding ways to obscure their product. For several Octobers they'd bury at least one LCS game in one market on Fox Sports Net or FX. Now they shift all the first-round and half the second-round action to TBS, home of Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. It's Channel 39 on my cable system. Even I kept forgetting when and where these games were on.

I wasn't the only one. TBS's ratings fell from the LDS to the LCS. That's not my concern except that it represents how few baseball fans were watching. If it's because people weren't interested in Colorado vs. Arizona, then shame on them, it shouldn't matter who's playing because the two best teams left are playing. But if it's because somebody decided to start these games at an hour when millions of people were calling it a night on a channel way up the dial, then shame on the somebodies who made the decision.

Call me naïve, but baseball's playoffs shouldn't be tactical programming. They should be baseball's playoffs. They should be where everybody can see it and everybody can find it. They should be on so people who should care shouldn't have to ask the next morning, “Did they play last night? They did? Who won?”

The Rockies won. The Rockies won the pennant. The Rockies have won everything in sight lately. The Rockies have to be seen to be believed. Too bad they haven't been seen all that much.

P.S. On this date 38 years ago, the New York Mets completed stunning the baseball world by winning the 1969 World Series. Time of miracle: 3:17 PM.

6 comments to The Champions of Channel 39

  • Anonymous

    Very well stated Greg – I agree with you wholeheartedly.
    My little guy, a great baseball fan, would have loved to have watched the game, but he leaves for school at 7:00 am – there's no way I could let him stay up that late.

  • Anonymous

    the Attendance records is evidence that people will watch. The Division Series did well, and you know why? Probably because it was on right after the regular season. none of these breaks where fans without teams in it start thinking things like “I wonder how the Islanders are doing” find another team in another sport to follow and mentally dismiss baseball until Spring. Last year I was killing myself waiting for the time between the division and championship series to elapse.
    I'm not too upset about it being on TBS. So many people have cable, particularly people that watch sports because so many teams are on cable stations.
    The time's rough. They did play some earlier games in the LDS..and maybe the better ratings for that will be a clue for next year. Maybe they'll finally get it. Because obviously the whole timing thing is about ratings, and it ain't working. While day baseball is nice and all, as a fan I'd much rather stay up to watch the game, because I won't skip work just to watch a game. I bet they would've done better ratings playing the games against each other. And please start at 7? or at least 7:30..come on! And the time of games is excrutiating sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    The Division Series ratings were good because teams from the top 4 largest markets in the country (New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia) were playing.
    The LCS ratings were doomed to drop, because they ended up with the four other teams, from markets #7 (Boston), #13 (Phoenix), #17 (Cleveland), and #18 (Denver).
    The 10 PM start time probably didn't hurt all that much, especially since it put those games into mostly Prime Time in the two most interested markets. I'd be really interested to see the game-by-game breakdown, but don't have time to look around at the moment.

  • Anonymous

    I live in the MDT, but even I find these late games trying. I am used to the 5:10 start time, after all.

  • Anonymous

    Regular-season games leave us at the mercy of time zone quirks and that's fine. I understand having to wait 'til 10:40 on a Friday night to watch the Mets from Chavez Ravine. But they gotta figure out a better way to do this in October. The whole world should be watching.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the TBS aspect wouldn't be that big a deal for the reason you cite, but it really marginalized the series. LDS, I understand. It was made for TV. But this is the pennant round we're talking about.
    Games that are on in the daytime can at least be caught on the fly via radio or desktop gamecast. Games that end after midnight are rough on everybody. They completely blot out kids. No way this is ideal.