No matter how much my stomach turns as the Yankees and Mets clash in this stop-the-presses Subway Series -- a New York team has to lose, I remind myself -- there remains a transcendent quality to the World Series from which I simply cannot turn away. The Super Bowl is a one-day extravaganza, to say the least. The Final Four, the Kentucky Derby, even the Daytona 500, all have their virtues as classic championships. But for the most sports-intoxicated country on earth, the definitive American contest is still the World Series. (Remember Jack Nicholson's impassioned plea in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
? "It's the World Series, Nurse Ratched! The World Series!!")
The time has come -- we're actually overdue -- for a national sports holiday. After all, how can a country so wrapped up in celebrating games not have a date on the calendar devoted to just that? And I have just the date: Game 4 of the World Series. Now hear me out on this.
Sadly, America is generally falling out of touch with its national pastime. This is due in part to outrageous salaries, superstars jumping from team to team, and the saturation of the sports page by the likes of the NFL, NASCAR, and the NBA. Whatever the reason, the most important step baseball must take to return to the front of the line is to re-establiish the connection with its very lifeblood: children.
As almighty network television currently has it, every World Series game begins in prime time. The final out is often recorded well beyond midnight on the east coast. Ten-year-old boys and girls have to be in bed by the third or fourth inning for crying out loud. Money makes the TV world go round, though, so how to get the Series back under sunshine? This is where our holiday comes in.
Every fall, on the Wednesday of World Series week -- typically when Game 4 is played -- Americans should get a day off from work. Government offices close for the day. Banks close for the day. And, most importantly, all schools close for the day.
With our holiday -- let's call it National Baseball Day -- television would have no excuse for forcing the World Series into prime time. We'll see the first pitch of Game 4 no later than two o'clock Eastern. Baseball with shadows, eye black, outfielders with sunglasses . . . the way the game should be seen. And with a nationwide audience of children able to watch every last pitch.
We'd have to really make it an event. Perhaps the season's batting and home run champions could be honored before Game 4. Instead of mind-numbing analysis from media types, maybe the pre-game festivities could include an annual legends tribute, where each league can be represented by a hero of days gone by. (This year? How about Whitey Ford and Tom Seaver?) Something, anything to remind us all that baseball is a part of this country's fabric.
Would everybody tune in for the game on National Baseball Day? Of course not. And that's fine. Go to the lake. Picnic with your family. Visit a museum. Take the dog to the park. Just remind yourself, however you enjoy the day: baseball -- and the World Series -- got you there.
(You can write Frank Murtaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org