Only one October

October 15, 2009

I think the high point in postseason baseball coverage was 2007, when Dane Cook lent his legendary enunciation skills to the immortal phrase, “There’s only one October.” During the Red Sox-Angels series that year, I took up ESPN columnist Bill Simmons’ drinking game challenge to take a shot every time the commercial featuring an overly excited Mr. Cook played. I ended up passing out in my dorm’s common bathroom with the door locked, twice resisting my friends’ attempts to crawl under the stall and help me out. This is a testament to the dangerous power of October.

For me, the 2009 postseason began when I tuned in a few minutes before the first pitch of the Yankees-Twins series just in time to catch Ron Darling and Chip Caray send things over to field/courtside/sideline reporter and dashing-man-about-town Craig Sager. Sager, I assume, had just come out of one of the new Yankee Stadium’s several cantilevered ballroom staircases, and was standing on a deck overlooking the field. Was he going to mention the Twins’ poor postseason record against the Yanks? Joe Mauer’s inspiring story of playing for the team he once cheered for as a kid? As I watched, astonished, he launched—no joke—into an explanation of the prevalent weather patterns in Maine and southern Canada, including the low pressure system that was being funneled down the Hudson River Valley directly into the South Bronx. Sager then admitted that this would probably have little effect on the play down on the field, but that up in the bleachers, there was a mild breeze. I rushed to to corroborate.

As far as I know, this was the only meteorological digression on the part of the TBS team, but it is indicative of a larger trend in televised sports in general and baseball specifically: information saturation. If you watch enough baseball, you start to think that every game has a record-setting moment of some sort, whether it’s Dustin Pedroia hitting the longest home run ever for a legal midget, or Peter Moylan passing Grant Balfour on the list of all-time strikeout leaders among Australian relief pitchers. It’s as if the people who produce baseball games think we’re bored and need Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to nervously drown out the silence.

I think the turning point came with the introduction of the little fake field that allows ESPN analysts to get up and demonstrate just how they would pitch to Hanley Ramirez if they were still in the game, and not washed-up alcoholics living off the success of one perfect game, sandwiched in between twenty years of mostly mediocre pitching. There’s a reason baseball analysts sit behind a desk—and it’s so we don’t have to see John Kruk’s waistline. (Although I have to admit watching Keyshawn Johnson manipulate hologram linemen across a mini-Astroturf field makes me happy to be alive during the digital age.)

Of course, all of this is moot, because the weather pattern that supplied A-Rod’s balls with enough juice to get out of the stadium in the Bronx apparently moved north and shriveled Jonathon Papelbon’s nuts with one out to play. There’s only one October, and for me it ended all too soon.

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