How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the World Series
Being a baseball fan means accepting that there's no sense in arguing with people who tell you that the game is, and I'll quote, “fucking boring,” because the game is indeed fucking boring for people who don't care about it. And it means dealing with all the corninesses and compromises and disappointments that come with caring about professional sports—giving money to the craven Boston cream donuts that own teams, entrusting a chunk of your emotional well-being to a gang of jocks you'll never meet and probably wouldn't like—all the usual stuff. Which means that being a baseball fan, especially during the World Series, requires cropping out all the branded sentimentality and backwards-looking dumbassery and noise and enjoying what's left. If you find baseball fucking boring, then you will find the World Series extremely fucking boring. But, edited properly, this World Series has been pretty great.
Admittedly, there's a lot to cut. Baseball's generally sky-high pomp-and-backwardness factor—this is the sport that spins George Will's bowtie, remember—and the fact that the World Series is being broadcast by the howling cultural anus that is Fox requires some ace real-time mental editing. And the World Series has required even more V-chipping than usual. Fox's signature shamelessness is in postseason overdrive: The game's every moment and non-moment are leveraged and hyper-sponsored into synergistic incoherence; the network's shows are promoted incessantly, most jarringly by sticking every Fox-sonality this side of the CGI dinosaurs from Terra Nova in the stands; viewers are subjected to the broadcasting team of befuddled dad Tim McCarver and the human bag of special K that is Joe Buck. There is a mute button on your remote that will help with this.
The non-Fox media, for its part, is grimly humping to death a corny master narrative that pits Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's gnarled genius against Rangers manager Ron Washington's holy-fool intuition. The two have done their worst, at times, to live down to that narrative's dim promise—several games have devolved into hyper-managed goof-pageants more reminiscent of two Kardashians playing Uno than the Deep Blue-versus-Daniel Boone chess match touted on sports pages both real and virtual. La Russa, who is awfully prickly and defensive for a world-historic genius, has been vain and sour and meddlesome to the point of caricature. His decision to bring in a reliever to issue an intentional walk—a job that anyone or anything capable of throwing a ball 60 feet and six inches could've done—seemed like the apex of this, until he took things to the next level of alpha-douchery by blaming it all on his bullpen coach and a faulty bullpen phone connection. Washington, who at least seems like a nice person and does some awesomely gif-able happy-dances when good things happen for his team, shares with Herman Cain an affably abject inability to explain his own decisions and actions. So you should probably tune the managers out, too.
Which leaves us with, thankfully, a lot. The Rangers and Cardinals—a matchup that isn’t exactly a ratings goldmine—are flawed and fascinating in some similar and complementary ways, and so the games have featured an especially bracing and fun version of baseball's usual tense sleepiness. These games are fucking good. Yes, nearly every one has been six or seven commercial breaks longer than necessary thanks to La Russa’s and Washington's hypermanagerial jockeying. Yes, Buck's zombified delivery of Fox's ubiquitous brand messages ensures that there is no real break from that enervated and mildly affronted commercial break feeling. Yes, there was the disturbing spectacle of the chimpy war criminal who used to own the Rangers high-fiving the whiskey-jowled tough guy who currently does. But the annoying stuff is ultimately easy enough to tune out if you like baseball, and if the baseball is good enough. And the baseball being played at the center of the decontextualized, half-curdled, hyper-branded noisescape that is Fox's signature contribution to The Culture is, blessedly and unsurprisingly, more than good enough. The challenge is getting to it.
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