This noon, I spoke at the Sanford Kiwanis about my book ‘ From Beer To Beards, Boston Baseball’s 2011-2013 Roller Coaster Ride.’ A friend of mine had asked me to come and speak to the group. That’s the kind of friend everyone needs. Invite you to give a speech about a baseball book the week of the Super Bowl.
Anyway, until I got up to speak, everyone was talking football and I’m not sure it stopped even then. The funny thing was, they talked about Deflategate, the fact that the Pats were the most hated team in football, Seattle being the second most hated and what would happen if it were proven that the Pats had cheated but not much talk about the game itself.
This got me to thinking about the differences between football’s extravaganza and the World Series.
The NFL plays a 16 game season followed by a maximum of three playoff games per team before the Super Bowl contestants are decided. In all, 12 teams make the playoffs and they play a total of 11 games, including the Super Bowl.
MLB, on the other hand, plays a 162 game season followed by a maximum of 13 playoff games per team before the World Series contestants are decided. In all, 10 teams make the playoffs and they play a maximum of 43 games, including the World Series.
The Superbowl is a one game, winner take all, single elimination contest while the World Series contestants have to win four games out of a maximum of seven.
Football is a much more physically demanding sport and must play a shorter season with longer breaks between games. Baseball, which requires superb conditioning also, is less physical on a day to day basis and players can play day after day.
As a result of this difference, football takes two weeks off between the playoffs and the Superbowl while baseball starts the World Series a few days after the playoffs end.
In the Superbowl one key player having an exceptionally good or bad day can mean the championship. In a World Series, because of the length, one player’s performance can be critical but not so much so as in the Superbowl. Of course, when you have a Madison Bumgarner to effectively win three games in a seven game series as happened this fall, that generality goes out the window.
Both events are analyzed to death as they approach. The networks and the rest of the media trot out experts on every aspect of the games and the teams in them. The fact that baseball plays multiple games, softens the media effect as the focus changes somewhat from day to day as the series progresses.
Starting with media day, the Super Bowl has the spotlight for the entire week before the game. By the time the Superbowl begins, most fans know more than they want to about both teams. That two week layoff, especially this year with Deflategate, provides so many distractions that it seems that the game itself becomes secondary to the hype.
The contest among the sponsors to provide the best commercial and the multi-million dollar half time show seem to become more interesting than the game to the average fan.
Maybe that’s why my friends at Kiwanis were talking about the Superbowl but not the game itself.
Whatever the reasons for or the effects of the differences, both events provide the ultimate in sports viewing and competition. Even though I am a baseball fan first, I wouldn’t miss the Patriots thumping the Seahawks this weekend for anything.