My first recollection of the World Series was in 1959, when the Dodgers played the White Sox. The Series games those days were played around 1 p.m. local time, so I remember getting home from school just after three with the Dodgers leading 9-3 in Game Six and just three outs from winning the championship. My friends were in front of my house yelling at me to come out and play touch football, but I kept stalling. It wasn’t until the Dodgers dominating closer Larry Sherry got Chicago’s Luis Aparicio to fly out to Wally Moon in left to start the celebration that I joined my friends.
I was only eight, but I had already chosen the World Series over football.
As a I look forward to the start of the 2014 World Series in two days between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals, I haven’t changed my preference. In fact, I can comfortably say that watching the World Series is better than watching the Super Bowl. I know that sets me apart from my fellow Americans. Last year’s Super Bowl was watched by 108.4 million in the USA. A per game average of 15 million watched the 2013 World Series. The Giants-Royals are likely to dip even lower. The 2012 Giants-Tigers World Series drew an all-time low audience of 12.7 million average per game.
Now I should probably toss in a disclaimer that I’m not down on football. I’ve watched every Super Bowl on TV, starting with the first one on Jan. 15, 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. That was so long ago that they didn’t even call it the Super Bowl then — it was more modestly labeled the AFL-NFL Championship Game. I love football, and always look forward to the next Roman numeral showdown.
So let’s break it down, as the analysts say, and explore why the World Series is better than the Super Bowl.
1. Condensed hype: Baseball allows as little as two days between the two league championship series and the World Series, although the time can be stretched out a couple days if the league series ended in fewer than seven games. The NFL has a two-week gap. Among the big events the NFL schedules to keep their fans interested during this time is Media Day, which is more painful than a knee injury. Baseball keeps the momentum in its post-season going, and that can possibly affect the games. For example, if a team had to go seven in the league series, it may have had to use up their ace, while the team that swept their series would be able to have their rotation totally rested.
2. Pregame show: The World Series pregame starts at 4:30, 37 minutes before the first pitch. The Super Bowl pregame starts so early, farmers wake up the roosters when they turn it on before dawn. The baseball pregame sets up the actual matchup. The NFL pregame is about as interesting as the Pro Bowl.
3. Best of seven: The World Series is a good book, read slowly, savoring every word. The Super Bowl is a one-game Tweet. The Series can last up to nine days, with two for travel and seven for games. Each game is a new chapter, with a new storyline. National media has been writing that the Giants are lucky to have gotten this far. But luck has little to do with who wins the World Series. The Series is a mental and physical endurance test. The teams have played up to 175 games to get there, so it’s hard to have a fluke World Series winner. The one-game Super Bowl leaves a lot to luck if the game is close. The World Series also allows for clunkers. While today might be a blowout, tomorrow may bring a thriller. An early Super Bowl rout not only means that the party host will have a lot of guacamole left over as the guests leave early, but one lopsided score ends the season cold.
4. Getting to know you: The multi-games provide the casual fan who has not followed the World Series teams to get to know about the players’ stories. Did anyone beyond the Bay Area know who Travis Ishikawa was until he won Game Five? I doubt many baseball fans know anything about Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, but they will learn quickly about the man who is greeted from the stands with “Moose” calls, and that foam moose antlers are a big-selling item in the Kauffman Stadium gift store. These are the kind of stories that can be revealed over the pace of a week of games. You’re not going to get that kind of intimacy in the fast-paced Super Bowl telecast.
5. Word from our sponsor: Unless the Clydesdales are involved, I’m not interested in the Super Bowl ads. They don’t even wait for the game anymore. Now you can view the commercials online days before the kickoff. Quick, name one memorable commercial from a World Series game. When an inning is over, there is time to review what just happened and look ahead to who is up next and who might come in to pitch. There’s no time to talk football strategy for fans during Super Bowl breaks. We gotta watch some potato chip ad instead.
6. Take me out to the concert: The game is second billing to casual football fans, with many of the millions who have TVs tuned to the Super Bowl more interested in the moves of the performers in the halftime concert than the moves of the wide receivers. The NFL extends halftime for a pop song concert, underscoring the fact that this day is really not just about football. The World Series only interrupts play for “God Bless America” and Take Me Out To the Ballgame” in the seventh. The Royals’ hit theme song was written by a Christian music artist and the Giants play a recording of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” by Tony Bennett after a home victory. The NFL holds its hand on the bleep button as Madonna sings “”Sexy and I Know It.” Baseball let’s the music roll, confident that the Christian guy won’t have a wardrobe malfunction.
7. Parties and pools: I’d rather watch the Super Bowl alone so I can focus on the inside-football part of the game, but invariably get corralled into going to a Super Bowl Party. That is the worst place to watch the game, and I usually have to watch a recording later on at home to understand what happened. People don’t have World Series parties. They just watch the game, as revolutionary an action as that is.
8. Everybody in the pool: People at Super Bowl parties aren’t even rooting for a team. They instead are rooting for the score of a given quarter to match up with their square in the pool. I’ve never known anyone who bet on a baseball game (Pete Rose excluded).
9. MVPs: Since 1988, 10 of the 16 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks. Since 1988, pitchers were the MVPs in just four years, with the rest of the honors shared by position players with the exception of one DH winner. The World Series hero is more likely to be a common-man player rather than a superstar, and no position has an advantage such as the quarterback does. This adds to the intrigue of who will rise to World Series glory?
10. No place like home: This is where baseball really has the advantage over football in sports’ biggest stage. The World Series is played before the home fans, allowing them to watch the team they have supported all season go for the championship. The Super Bowl is played at a neutral site, eliminating the exciting buzz of home-field crowds, and reminding the ordinary folks who support the team the rest of the season that it’s time for the corporate types and celebrities to take their place in the stands at a stadium far away from their city and price range.
So it’s Play Ball! I’ll be in my easy chair charting every pitch of the World Series, unless some friends show up outside my house wanting to toss the baseball around. Not sure what to do if that happens.