Greg Hansen: Nation turns its lonely eyes away

2011-10-24T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Nation turns its lonely eyes awayGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 24, 2011 12:00 am  • 

I walked into a neighborhood saloon Saturday night to watch some college football. It was big screen bliss in every direction.

Wisconsin-Michigan State. Epic finish.

USC-Notre Dame. Good night for the Pac-12.

Stanford-Washington. I'm thinking Andrew Luck U. will knock off the Ducks on Nov. 12.

Oklahoma-Texas Tech. Not a good week for the Stoops boys.

One of the many flat-screen TVs was wired to World Series Game 3. One. Every time I checked, a pitcher was walking in from the bullpen. Do you realize that in the first three games of the World Series that St. Louis and Texas combined to use 31 pitchers?

How's that going to play with the younger generation, whose attention span is, what, 45 seconds?

Saturday's baseball game went on and on and on. It required 4 hours and 4 minutes. I kept checking to see how many in the wings-and-beer crowd were watching baseball. One guy.

I used to be that One Guy. Now I am watching Texas Tech play football. I lament the passing of our national pastime.

When the Yankees and Pirates played their enduring Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, my mom allowed me to stay home from school.

She arranged for our neighbor, Mr. Farnes, to drive me to school after his lunch hour. By the time Bill Mazeroski broke my heart with a ninth-inning homer, Mr. Farnes had parked his car and was sitting in our living room. Upon seeing Mr. Farnes' car in the driveway, Mr. Cazier, who lived across the street, rang the doorbell.

Pretty soon, on a weekday afternoon, my sofa included a university professor, a stockbroker and a fourth-grade Yankee fan watching Bill Mazeroski step into history.

That was baseball in America 51 years ago.

Now it's a Hail Mary pass by the Michigan State football team obscuring Albert Pujols' three home runs.

The first three games of the World Series required 10 hours and 14 minutes. The game has become so slow that it struggles to keep the attention of even the few remaining Mr. Baseballs.

When Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in the 1977 World Series, every newspaper in the country ran a headline in big letters that read: REGGIE! REGGIE! REGGIE!

Pujols' three-homer game played big only in St. Louis and Dallas. It came off like three singles. Such is the state of baseball as an American game.

On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2, the Diamondbacks played the Brewers in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. It was watched by 5.7 percent of households in the greater Phoenix area, according to figures presented by USA Today.

On that same afternoon, a routine NFL regular-season game between the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants drew 21.5 percent of all Phoenix households.

This is not just a regional issue. The NFL's Sunday morning pregame show on Fox had higher ratings than any of this year's baseball playoff games on TBS.

I used to be that guy so absorbed by the baseball playoffs that I couldn't bear to watch. In 1977, I stood outside on my driveway, in the Florida moonlight, pacing, waiting for my wife to relay results of Game 5 of the excruciating Yankees-Royals playoff game.

During the World Series, I worked up the courage to stand in the hallway, hands over my ears, and periodically peek around the corner in hopes of seeing the Yankees hold off the hated Dodgers.

The '77 World Series produced five complete games. Why, in Game 4, the Yankees' Ron Guidry pitched complete games and, from start to finish, Game 4 required 2:07.

Baseball is now a game of specialists. It's a game of relief pitchers. It's often labor to sit through a single inning.

Babe Ruth hit three home runs in Game 4 of the 1926 World Series. The first three games of the '26 World Series were played in 1:48, 1:57 and 1:41. Even Ruth's unforgettable three-homer performance, in a 10-5 slugfest, was over in 2 hours and 38 minutes.

And beyond that, the 1926 World Series began on Oct. 2 and was in the books on Oct. 10.

Baseball in 1926 had absolutely no interference getting the public's attention. College football was a regional game, the NFL was in its infancy, and there was no television. Babe Ruth's three home runs in Game 4 were the biggest story in American sports in 1926.

In 1977, Reggie Jackson's three-homer World Series game was fueled by ABC - an estimated 32 million watched Jackson's three-homer performance - in a pre-cable era when ABC analyst Howard Cosell commanded almost as much attention as Reggie himself.

But now the broadcast audience is so splintered - the faces and voices from TBS to TNT to Fox to ESPN mixed and often unfamiliar - that the game no longer has an intimacy.

When Game 5 is played Tuesday night, I'll again be on the sofa. But this time I'll probably be fast asleep.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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