The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: ‘It’s all about the chase.’ By Brad Eastland

September 25, 2011
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      I watched a lot of football on Sunday (as I do every Sunday), and with all the excitement that gets packed into seemingly every football game and not much going on in baseball as the 2011 regular season winds down, it struck me that this is why football has passed baseball in popularity.

Michael Vick broke his right hand in a game against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Michael Vick broke his right hand in a game against the New York Giants on Sunday.



With so much riding on every game, and with so much hype leading up to every game, every game is like some terrifically ballyhooed three-act play.

     Here’s the deal.   There are only 16 games a year in football.   There are 162 games a year in baseball.   So it’s almost exactly 10 to 1.   It stands to reason that Americans (a country populated by quick-fix humanoids with famously short attention-spans) would gravitate in droves to the all-or-nothing adrenalin rush of football over the day-to-day grind of a long baseball season.

     And admittedly, it was another wildly entertaining day of wackiness in the National Football League.   I hardly know where to start.

     Perhaps I should start with my beloved Chicago Bears.   The Bears played one of the dumbest games in recent memory.   Stupid penalties, mind-boggling turnovers, personal fouls, and, most frustrating of all, the burning of two precious time-outs in the 4th quarter while the clock was already stopped because they couldn’t decide what play to run!   Amazingly the game stayed close throughout, because the Green Bay Packers were almost as stupid as the Bears.   But not quite.   The Bears are 1 and 2.   They are not a very good football team right now.

     Yet curiously, NFL Network Channel analyst Deion Sanders declared in his post-game comments that he thinks the Packers and Bears will meet in the NFC Championship game again this year, just like they did last year.   Huh???   Deion thinks this Chicago Bears team will make the playoffs???   Evidently Deion’s employers don’t mind if the recent Hall of Fame inductee gulps gobs of drugs whilst analyzing the games….

     Two teams blew 20-point leads on Sunday.   Some seasons there aren’t two 20-point leads blown all year, and yet last Sunday alone it happened twice.   The Vikings coughed up a 20-0 lead to the suddenly playoff-bound Lions, while even more amazingly, the mighty Patriots blew a 21-to-0 lead to the surprisingly competent Buffalo Bills.   Most amazing of all was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, football’s best player, who threw FOUR INTERCEPTIONS in that game.   He threw only four interceptions ALL OF LAST YEAR!   You never know in football.   I guess that’s why they play the games.   Lowly Buffalo is undefeated.   The Bills.   The world is going to hell….

     Michael Vick broke his hand.   A late hit.   No penalty called.   And so he let the officials have it after the game in the press room.   He says he feels the refs allow him to be hit far too often after the play is over, and that he feels “unprotected” in the pocket.   Probably the way most of his dogs felt right before he strangled, drowned, or electrocuted them….

     The pathetic Indianapolis Colts almost beat the powerful, heavily-favored Steelers on Sunday.   Without all-pro quarterback Peyton Manning.   And without their back-up quarterback Kerry Collins, who left in the 3rd quarter with a concussion.   The Steelers jumped out to a 10 to nothing lead, with their quarterback, recent newlywed Ben Roethlisberger, throwing for 171 yards in the 1st quarter alone.   It was looking like a 30-point blowout for sure.   But then Colts defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney started knocking “Big Ben” down at will. He fumbled twice, threw an interception, and the Colts rolled up some points.   Then, late in the game, down by only seven, 3rd-string Colts QB Curtis Painter (yes, that’s really his name, and yes, I know you’ve never heard of him) drove the Colts 80 yards for the tying score!   I was an instant Colts fan, rooting and yelling like mad for them to pull off the upset of the year!   Their tremendous effort and boundless hopeful energy galvanized the home crowd, and the stadium was rockin’!

     But then Roethlisberger calmly drove Pittsburgh into field goal range, they kicked the game-winner as time expired, and ruined everything….

     Anyway, ‘great theater on Sunday.   Always is.

     But you know what?   There was some drama on Sunday in baseball as well.   The kind of drama I appreciate more.

     The Boston Red-Sox are crumbling.   Once the darlings of baseball in 2011, they are about to have a 9-game lead for the final American League playoff spot over the Tampa Bay Rays evaporate in less than a month, due to injuries and shaky pitching.   And yesterday, they had already lost the 1st game of a double-header with the Yankees while Tampa was winning.   If they were to lose Game Two as well, then the Rays and the Red-Sox would be flat-out tied….

     Both teams fought hard.   They hate each other.   The Yankees would have loved nothing more than to have been able to knock the hated Sox out of the race.   Boston fell behind 3-0.   But then they rallied to tie the score.   It was tied 4 to 4 in the 7th, the 8th, the 9th, went into extra innings, the Sox used their ace closer Jonathan Papelbon for two and a third glorious, heroic innings of shut-down relief, and then a few lesser hurlers got out of jam after jam.   It was inspiring.   With the season on the line, the Boston pitchers stepped up big-time.   The 11th inning came and went.   And the 12th.   And the 13th.   The tension was as thick as an old man’s morning mucous…..

     Then, in the 14th inning, Boston’s tiny yet powerful Jacoby Ellsbury blasted a two-out, 3-run home run to win the game.   It was the play of the year for the Boston Red-Sox.   Not merely the product of three hours of legal violence and mayhem (like a pro football game), but the culmination of five hours of tense, grueling, gut-wrenching baseball, at the end of a tense, grueling, gut-wrenching regular season.  (The diminutive, pocket-sized Ellsbury hit three home runs in the double-header.   I love it.)

     The Red-Sox may yet fail to hold off the Rays for that final playoff spot.   And even if they do hold off Tampa, they may lose early in the playoffs, their pitching staff being pretty much in shambles.   But on Sunday they reminded me why I will always prefer baseball to football.

     Y’see, people, after you go watch a play, there’s a big let-down.   And then to re-create that rush, you have to grab your best squeeze and pony up the big bucks to go see another play.   It’s quite drug-like in nature, if you think about it..

     But baseball, like Life, is a day-to-day grind.   Every game doesn’t have to be a classic.   Therefore, the classic ones, when they do occur, mean more.   The thrill is more in the chase than in the result.   I should know….as a Giants fan, it took me half a century to finally get to the finish line last year.

     In baseball there’s a game every day.   Life never takes a day off either.



PS—*by the way, if you caught the video right here on La Verne Online a couple days ago, you know by now that FOUR OUT OF FIVE of my NFL picks were winners, including my weekly “best bet”; the “over” 53 points in the Buffalo/New England game.   Feel free to hop on the bandwagon next week, if you can find room….

meet….The Sports Philosopher!brad-eastland3

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered literary giant, and lover of both baseball and football the way some men can love two different women….albeit in two very different ways.    Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’




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