WGN has their broadcast booth right on street level. They were doing a sports show as we walked past, one of the guys rattled off a few scores from games that were in progress. Seattle was beating Cleveland and I showed some mock-enthusiasm. The Chicago-natives and Parisians in our party were bemused.
Later it was suggested that the Chicagoans and Parisians would go to a game at Wrigley Field. “There’s a rule that you have to have a beer at every inning.” As they sipped from their pints (which bore portraits of Sam Adams on their sides), the French representatives agreed that this sounded reasonable. “An inning is like a quarter?” they asked. “Except there’s nine of them,” it was explained. They responded with what good-humored mock-distaste.
I was asked, “Is the regular season still going or are we in playoffs now?” I answered that I know playoff tickets have been sold, but that I wasn’t sure.
On a whim we stepped into ESPN Zone to play video games. During a bathroom break, a guy stepped up to the urinal beside mine and described to me his satisfaction with the performance of the Yankees in the game that was playing out on the tiny screens above our urinals. “So you think it’ll be the Mariners and the Yankees?” I asked, making a small leap of logic. He nodded at me in a complicated way that involved not looking at me with anything but his peripheral vision and agreed vaguely, making it clear that I’d said the wrong thing.
Yesterday the out-of-work flight attendant sitting next to me on the plane said that we were flying into Seattle in the middle of a playoff game. I voiced my concern about how this would affect the trip from the airport to the city, “Oh man! Traffic’s going to be bad.” He looked at me as if I’d just criticized knee-jerk flag-waving patriotism.
There was no traffic problem. My bus made good time getting downtown.
That evening I turned on the TV and instead of continuous strings of Simpsons episodes, they were switching back and forth between the blow-dried news anchors and the loud-voiced high-fiving sports guys, all of them explaining that there’d been a game with the Mariners and the Yankees, and that the Mariners had lost. I thought back to my conversation in the ESPN Zone restroom and realized that not only had I said the wrong thing, but as my prediction had come true, I’d apparently simply missed the point.
Today on the local NPR station lame-duck mayor/least popular person in Seattle Schell was interviewed. He explained that he’d placed a bet with lame-duck mayor/pop star Guiliani on the series of games that the Mariners and Yankees would be playing. The mayor of the losing team would send the mayor of the winning team a care package containing local foods. If the Yankees win, Schell will send Guiliani a case of apples and some seafood. And if the Mariners win, Guiliani will send Schell a case of apples and some seafood.
I guess that this isn’t the World Series though, it’s still the playoffs. Nobody told me that, I had to figure it out on my own.
After the 162 game season, 8 teams make the playoffs. There are two “leagues”, National League and American League– difference being slight rule change involving whether a designated hitter non-fielder is a position or the pitcher has to hit (also one league is merely 100 years old, the other has its origins in the 19th century.). 4 teams from each league are in the playoffs. There are three divisions in each league, decided geographically. The winner of each division makes the playoffs, with the fourth team being a wildcard team — the team with the best record that did not win the division. So, there are 4 league divisional series, best of 5. The Mariners came back to beat the Indians, The Yankees came back to beat the Athletics, The Braves swept the Astros, and the Diamondbacks beat the Cardinals. Right now, the League Championship series are taking place, where the Mariners and Yankees are playing a best of 7 series and the Braves and Diamondbacks are as well. Winners go on to the world series, where the rules are decided based on whose ballpark is being played that night– meaning that the AL pitchers are going to have to hit in the NL park and the NL is going to throw up someone from the bench to be a designated hitter.
Meanwhile, the ratings showed that a bad Monday Night Football game pitting the two worst teams beat the deciding game of the Yankees-Athletics series, so it all seems sort of mute anyway.