Soon there will be unbridled joy, followed by months of deep darkness

There is much angst in Footballville. The ratings for the National Football League are down.

Donald Trump has a theory. When it comes to watching people beat the snot out of each other for no good reason, the NFL is second to politics. Why watch football when you can just turn on the news?

Others have theorized that protests for racial justice have turned the average NFL fan off.

“I don’t know much about ratings and how they are affected and all of those things,” Colin Kaepernick told the Sacramento Bee. “But I don’t understand why ratings would go down, fighting for justice for people, to try to stop oppression, especially in a league that is predominantly black.”

We shall leave that entire question — what’s wrong with the NFL — to the people who consider it a bug, not a feature.

Instead, we will point to the half-full side of politics and sports and note — as Mike Lupica did today on Sports on Earth — that the ratings for the World Series are up substantially. And he blames credits politics for baseball’s newfound popularity.

No one in their right mind would ever suggest that the ratings for this World Series and the appeal of this World Series matter to the future of the country the way this campaign does, as much as this hideous campaign has diminished our country’s standing around the world.

It was Jacques Barzun who once wrote, and famously, that “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” And that was always such a fine sentiment for those of us who love baseball, even if the country is a million times more complicated than that. But you know what? I’m fine with old Barzun right now.

This World Series, however it plays out this week at The Jake (yeah, I’m going to keep calling it that), isn’t going to bring the country together the way the U.S. hockey team did in Lake Placid in 1980.

The country isn’t getting behind one team, or the other, even though there is probably more of it rooting for the Cubs simply because their waiting has been longer in Chicago; because they are more of the darlings in this throwback Series.

But you can imagine what kind of darlings the Indians would be outside of their own fan base if they were going up against anybody besides the Cubs, certainly after what happened with the Cavs in June.

Both of these teams, and this one baseball event, provide a wonderful respite, even for a few hours a night, from politics. That is what the World Series does.

That is why it seems so valuable, seems to matter as much as it does.

Seriously, would you rather be talking about Chapman and Miller and Tito and Joe Maddon and Kyle Schwarber, or about Comey and Clinton and Huma and Weiner and emails and Trump, who claimed over the weekend that not only was Hillary Clinton going to open up the borders, she was going to let in “650 million” people, which you have to say would be some trick in a country that only has half of that now?

Game 6 of the World Series is tonight and, if you believe the national media, there’ll be a Game 7 Wednesday night. And then, that’ll be it for baseball. It will disappear during the months of darkness, surely no coincidence.

The presidential campaign of 2020, however, will begin a week from today.

No doubt, someone will point out in the comments section that a baseball game is too long. Perhaps it’s interfering with something they want to watch on the news.

  • MrE85

    I still don’t know if I’ll watch tonight. Game 5 was emotionally draining.

    • Gary F

      You can make another game or two. Just like the pitching staff, you will get plenty of rest until spring.

  • Will

    I think there are a few reasons for the ratings drop on the NFL. First, is the lack of star players who have retired, been suspended or are injured, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, etc. Second, some are protesting the kneeling protests. Third, there is more information about the concussion issue which the NFL ignored for too long.

    • I was under the impression that the only reason people watched football was for their fantasy teams. I wonder how the fantasy sites are doing?

      • Will

        Good point, I think state governments have begun to clamp down on those weekly fantasy websites.

      • Zachary

        It seems that way around my office. Monday morning, it’s all “Did you see how many points my (insert random player name here) put up?” it’s never “did you see the game?” At this point, I almost think the fantasy stuff is keeping the games alive.

  • Gary F

    Already planning a trip to Seattle for Twins v Mariners in June.

    • A battle of division leaders, I predict.

      • Gary F

        1994 we had tickets to Twins v Mariners in the Kingdome. We had friends out there. Had plane tickets already bought and then baseball went on strike. Then I couldn’t even see the Kingdome because it was closed because someone died fixing the falling ceiling tiles. I got a picture of me standing next to a ceiling tile at a sports card store. Went to Everett and saw a minor league game.

        It all started as easy three day vacations to Milwaukee, Chicago and KC. Then longer drives to St Louis, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, Then flying to Washington DC, then spring training, then this year Boston.

        Thinking about next year’s trip and season helps the winter pass.

      • Bob Sinclair

        Wow. Really? Can we come back to this next year and see how right (or wrong) you are?

      • Gary F

        Sorry for ya Bob. They fought like dogs. Its tough to be up a couple then lose it. But with the season the Cubbies had, it was maybe already decided. Not sure who is under contract for next year, but you got a good manager and a good team.

  • Mike Worcester

    Is it possible football coverage reached a saturation point? Sunday afternoon games; Sunday evening games; Monday night games; Thursday(!) games; London games. Is it too much football?

    Personally I don’t see the kneeling issue having a major effect as that seems to be directed at specific players rather than whole teams.

    • Kassie

      I have a theory that the NFL split out the nights they play football so it is harder to link the sport to increases in domestic abuse. Instead of an increase of domestic abuse just on Sundays, now it can be spread to more days of the week and harder to track.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      I’ll go with this. Football used to be an event, the Circus Maximus, you’d get your friends and family together and watch the game on Sunday. Monday Night Football was an acceptable extension, dessert for the feast that is Sunday afternoon. Now the Sunday night game sort of has that distinction and Monday night is the after dinner mint.

      Baseball, as someone else once said, is life. It represents the daily battles we all face knowing that what happens today has little effect on what happens tomorrow. Baseball’s schedule is a working man’s (or woman’s) schedule. They play 5 or 6 games a week. You can’t dwell on yesterday’s issues because today’s game starts in a few hours. It is why there are only two seasons in the year, Baseball season and the off season.

  • Joe

    The Ringer comes to the conclusion that the excellent team narrative (two teams with a combined series drought of 180 years!) is masking some troubling trends for baseball’s popularity.

    https://theringer.com/2016-mlb-postseason-slowness-game-time-bf729094a10#.tc0488or6

    (I know, I know, anyone who dares question baseball in these parts is clearly evil, but I thought it was an interesting take)