Slap Hitter: Baseball: the Great Regional Pastime

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We're one-third of the way through the baseball post-season. There have already been two Champagne soaked celebrations per participant: 1) Winning playoff sport. 2) Winning first round of playoffs. Here in the Bay Area--it's football season. Baseball's local scribes have already been reassigned, note A's beat writer Susan Slusser writing "overheard at the President's Cup" copy while two of four division series are being played in Southern California. If it ain't local hardball, it apparently isn't news.

And here's the thing: it's not like that in any other sport. The Super Bowl is big, regardless of team; I present exhibit A--the Arizona Cardinals. The NBA Finals are less bulletproof, but largely draw viewers based on the fact that it happens. Whither baseball?

Seems that the Grand Old game is the most parochial of the biggies. When the Tampa Bay Rays made the series last season, the Florida folk filled the ballpark for the first time in their history. As they dropped out of the running this year, I'm guessing their interest in who the new American League pennant winner will be has dissolved.

Maybe the Yankees or Red Sox can carry national weight, but even the big market Dodgers and Angels will hear of terrible TV ratings as they play into Halloween. What an interesting phenomenon, that as you can find Pittsburgh Steeler fanatics in Pittsburg, California, baseball digs in more locally in the 21st century.

Obviously there is an overall decline in the number of seam heads compared to the followers of the winter games, but still, use this simple test. If the Niners or Raiders were in the Super Bowl. (OK, the Niners), the coverage would be comprehensive, round the clock and detailed. But it's that way now, when two teams from far outside the time zone battle. If the A's or Giants were in the Series (OK, use your Big imagination here) the coverage would be comprehensive, round the clock and detailed, but without them--crickets.

So, if you have the desire to tune in this weekend, just know, you're doing your part in keeping sport from getting homogenized and stripped of its roots. You're watching globally but following locally.— Kibby Kleiman

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