World Series is here — sit back and enjoy it

10/18/2011 12:00 AM

10/18/2011 4:49 PM

Baseball is a quiet game played at an unhurried pace and, no, it doesn't always sync up with the fast-moving 21st Century.

Football, I know, is America's sport. It's hard hitting, it's tough, it's filled with personality and there's always somebody at ESPN talking about it. Always.

Long after the Earth dissolves into dust, Mort, Shefty and the Professor will be analyzing the latest potential fourth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns. Bless their hearts.

But in an alternate universe, the World Series begins Wednesday night with an intriguing matchup: Texas vs. St. Louis. These teams hit. They have excellent bullpens. Starting pitchers might be lucky to get an out or two before relief pitchers are called into play.

I advise those of you who have gone away from baseball or haven't yet felt the game's pull to give this World Series a shot. See if there's something that grabs you. Let football go for a bit to watch the sport that used to captivate America like no other.

I'm not really sure how to gauge the popularity of baseball. I know television ratings don't always reflect it in a positive way, but attendance records are always being broken.

Last fall, Texas managed to transform Dallas-Fort Worth — a Cowboys area through and through — into a Rangers haven as they battled the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

During the many thin years for the Rangers, it was possible to spend a week in the Metroplex without coming across a fan. At least one who wanted it known.

Now, DFW is buzzing about their baseball team. It's cool to wear Rangers gear. Nolan Ryan the owner is close to overshadowing Nolan Ryan the pitcher who threw seven no-hitters.

Give baseball a chance.

There is a romance to the game. To go a little Dr. Phil on you, people who say baseball is boring lack emotional depth and intellectual versatility.

Of course, some baseball games are boring. Just like some football games are boring. Like some movies are boring. Living life means navigating the boring parts so that you can get to the good stuff. It's like eating a cream puff.

But baseball has the capacity to make me hang on every pitch. In some cases, that's a lot of pitches.

There is no clock, of course, so baseball games can run up to four hours. If a game is tied after nine innings, they play until somebody scores more. If you have a nervous tick, baseball probably isn't for you.

But it's also a game with perfect symmetry: 60 feet, 6 inches from pitcher's mound to home plate; 90 feet between bases. If the pitcher's mound was 60 feet, 7 inches from the plate, I suspect it would throw everything off.

There are power pitchers and finesse pitchers. There are top-of-the-order hitters and clean-up guys. There are players who are in the lineup for their glove and players who shouldn't even own a glove. They are called designated hitters, which will be used by both teams when the World Series shifts to Texas for Games 3, 4 and 5.

There is no game that embraces second guessing the way baseball does. Every manager's move is dissected. Why bunt there? Why not bunt there? Move the runner. Pitch out. Hit and run.

If I'm coming across as a salesman for baseball, it's because I am. And because I am envious of the way football permeates American society. I'm a big football fan, too, and I understand why we love the sport the way we do.

But baseball is there for us every day, from April through October. It's more difficult to be a baseball fan than it is to be a fan of any other sport because of the daily grind.

Your NFL team plays 16 meaningful games a season, a few more if there's a postseason. If you're an NBA fan you have to get through 82 games (probably a lot fewer this season), but half of the league gets to the playoffs, making those games less stressful.

Baseball pulls you in day after day, week after week. Following a baseball team for seven months is like getting in the ring with Manny Pacquiao. It beats you up.

Even if your team is out of contention, it's impossible to let go because baseball fans are always looking for that spark, that reason to stay invested.

Yet I fear it's not as hip as it used to be to love baseball. I have this terrible inferiority complex that football people represent the popular crowd.

They're so smug because their sport is so revered. They brag that a Monday night game between a couple of stiff teams will draw in more viewers than a World Series game.

Well, I proudly stand before you as Baseball Guy. And I invite you who are not in my camp to at least give this World Series a look-see. There's nothing like the drama of an important baseball game played well by both teams.

Football will always be there for you. Make a little room in your life for the greatest sport ever devised.

About Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz has been The Eagle's sports columnist since 1996. A native of Derby, he has worked for the newspaper since 1974 and covered a variety of beats, from high schools to Wichita State to pro sports. If you want to get in good with him, mention the St. Louis Cardinals. Provided they're winning, of course.

Contact Bob at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com

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