Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Best Playoff Race I'm Not Paying Attention To

Last night a friend was talking to me online and hanging on every pitch of the Red Sox game against the Orioles, with great anxiety and discomfort. When this happened an odd feeling struck me as I, as a Mets fan, haven't felt this feeling in three seasons, and I miss it. There has been nothing whatsoever meaningful about the Mets after August 15th since Shea Stadium existed and as a result, I have had a tendency to be largely checked out of baseball by the time September 30th rolls around. That doesn't mean I don't pay some attention. I check the scores and watch the postseason enthusiastically every fall, but I have probably only watched two Mets games in the past six weeks and as a result had almost no idea until 48 hours ago that two things were happening. Given how much I love baseball this might be the second most unbelievable conclusion I've come to this week.

A) The Braves and Cardinals and the Rays and Red Sox are wrapped up in two of the wildest postseason races in modern baseball history.

B) Today is the last day of the regular season. On a Wednesday. Huh?

The peculiarity of baseball's regular season ending in the middle of a week as opposed to its traditional Sunday end date is a query for another time, but this all means that tonight we're going to be set for an absolutely crazy night of baseball score watching which I will probably miss out on because I'm going to be eating apples and honey instead. But still this is a fun, fun experience that I'm pretty much stunned I haven't been paying close attention to.

For what it's worth the Red Sox' collapse should, it come all the way through, could be on par with some of the greatest collapses in baseball history, a pain that my friend Katie informed I could not possible understand last night before I pointed out that I have experienced exactly that. Twice. Still, it's worth noting that the Sox, apparently, have been some 7 games or so worse this September than the Mets were in 2007, an almost unthinkable feat, while the Rays have managed to blaze through the AL East this month and tie the Sawx going into the final day. It'd be an amazing feat in and of itself, but is doubled in remarkability by the fact that the Cardinals are doing the exact same thing in the NL with one game to play.

The Mets, meanwhile, have other plans.

Even if I won't be watching every pitch tonight, I will be checking scores eagerly to see who comes out on top in the AL and if the hated Braves can complete their collapse in the senior circuit. I still will wonder how I wasn't paying attention however, and if I can come up with any reason why it's probably because football season started and the Giants maybe, just maybe, might not be as bad as all the naysayers seemed to think as evidenced by their tremendous win over the Eagles this past Sunday at the Linc.

In an unexpected twist, Eli Manning, who I keep telling people is far better than he gets credit for, was named the NFC offensive player of the week, while the Eagles, the Dream Team, have suddenly found themselves with an injury-prone star quarterback and a record that puts them in the NFC East cellar. Granted it's only the fourth week of the NFL season and the Eagles, surely will turn the ship around from 1-2 and make their way toward an NFC East title or at the very least a Wild Card berth, but this is a team that never expected to have two losses so early, and certainly not one to the banged up Giants.

I ain't complaining, and while I don't think the Eagles will be shut out of the postseason a la the overhyped Cowboys last year, I do think they were indeed overhyped and that their enormous trophy case will remain about as full this winter as it was last. The Giants may not necessarily be adding to theirs, but they just might be more competitive this season than a lot of my friends were saying.

That said I wouldn't mind having another football team in a championship game this season, and I say "another" because the one I follow in Australia just happens to be playing in the biggest game of all this Friday night/Saturday morning as Geelong is set to take on Collingwood in the 2011 Grand Final. There are several stories of intrigue ahead of the game, namely the big concerns over Stevie Johnson's knee, Collingwood's attempt to repeat, and the bizarrely intertwined history between these foes over the past few seasons. Indeed it was Collingwood, that Geelong barely got past in the 2007 Preliminary Final en route to the Cats' first championship in 44 years. Last season, Collingwood topped Geelong in the Preliminary Final on the way to its first title in 20 years.

This year many seemed to believe the Magpies were on a crash course with their second Premiership in a row, and indeed they have looked phenomenal, losing just two matches all season. But it's worth noting that both of those losses, including a tight thriller in the 8th week, and an utter blowout in the season finale, were to Geelong. The Cats have typically played second banana to the Pies all season, but they've gone toe to toe it's Geelong that's shined, and that, in my American thinking, should give them the mental edge heading into the Grand Final on Saturday, no? If as an American football fan, you must have a comparison to something you understand, it's eerily reminiscent of the relationship between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans in 1999.



You all may have to hear more about this on Friday before the game itself happens, but to put it mildly, I'm excited. Frankly, more so than I am about the end of baseball's regular season tonight. If anyone's free Friday night at 12:30 a.m., you're more than welcome to join me on my couch.

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