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Gans: Wild Card Wednesday (Sept. 30)

Sam Gans | Friday, September 30, 2011

Wednesday night, I watched regular season baseball for the first time in about two months.

A few weeks before returning to campus for fall semester, the Mets were on Fox Sports Ohio playing the Reds (in case you’re wondering how there’s a Mets fan in Columbus, Ohio, both my parents are from Long Island). I watched the series knowing the Mets were out of the playoff race ⎯ as the Phillies were on a whole other planet and no one was catching the Braves for the wild card ⎯ and I probably wouldn’t get to see them on television again. With a four-game sweep effectively eliminating the Reds from an NL Central-title repeat, I was content to end my 2011 baseball viewing on a high-note.

The truth is my interest in baseball had been waning for a few years now. I used to love watching the game but it just wasn’t that appealing to me anymore. In April and May, schoolwork and the NHL and NBA playoffs consumed most of my time. Same thing in September, and even October, except with football taking the place of hockey and basketball. Only from June to August could my attention be devoted fully to baseball, and with 162 games remaining in the dog days of summer, it starts getting repetitive.

I had been in denial about my lack of interest, but I had to accept it after last year.

It was Nov. 1, around 11:30 p.m., and I was in a quad in my dorm watching some TV show with friends. In the back of my mind, I knew I was forgetting to do something. It instantly hit me that it was game 5 of the World Series that night, with the Giants up on the Rangers three games to one and aiming to clinch the Commissioner’s Trophy.

I rushed to my room and turned on FOX, just in time to see the Giants spraying champagne all over the locker room and missing the final out and Brian Wilson’s subsequent want to rage … right now, in the process.

Amazingly, shockingly and sadly, a huge self-proclaimed sports fan like myself had completely forgotten about a championship-clinching game in one of the four major sports.

I went back to watching the show with my friends all of whom are at the minimum mild sports fans. When another member of the section from Northern California barged into the room in celebration, he was greeted by a collection of, “Oh, they won? Congrats.”

I didn’t hear any other buzz about the game in the entire dorm that night. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one who had lost interest in America’s pastime.

Flash-forward to last night. After what seemed in early September to be a very mediocre postseason chase, all of a sudden there were two ties atop the wild card standings entering the final day. The Braves and Red Sox had collapsed. Could the Cardinals and Rays complete the comebacks?

For whatever reason, though I didn’t watch the final game of the World Series last year, I watched Wednesday. Part of it was probably due to the infamous 2007 Mets collapse and wanting to see it happen to someone else (especially the Braves). Maybe some of it was due to the fact I had more interest in the teams involved than the Giants or Rangers. And maybe it’s just the natural excitement of four games having an impact instead of one.

Whatever the reason, I watched as three of the games came down to the wire. I went crazy as Philadelphia — who it hurt to cheer for — pulled a double-play to send Atlanta home. I cheered when, just minutes after Jonathan Papelbon’s meltdown had occurred in Baltimore, Evan Longoria sent the Rays to October baseball.

And in both cases, numerous other people in the dorm were going crazy as well.

Baseball will never die. It’s America’s pastime, the second-most popular sport in our country and its attendance and TV ratings are still very solid. But it seemed that perhaps overall, as in my case, people were losing interest.

Hopefully, Wednesday changed that.

The views expressed in the Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu.