Pennant race or September swoon?
Texas and Houston duel for the divisional title in the American League. San Francisco and the Dodgers are decades-old rivals and what better teams to thunder down the stretch in the National League West? Baltimore, Toronto and Boston are only inches apart in the American League East. Will upstart Cleveland hold off the battle-scarred and much-injured Tigers in the AL Central?
Will there be pennant fights all across the board or will some of the contenders become pretenders when they go into a September Swoon?
And what will the fans that follow more than one sport with their dollars do in places where college football or pro football have strong footholds?
In Baltimore, the Ravens will command attention but there are no college football powerhouses. Toronto won’t worry about the Argonauts of the Canadian Football League taking from their last-month attendance. Boston has the ever-present Patriots to take some attention from its quest to move from last-to-first in its division. The Red Sox won’t lose interest to Boston College or any other college football team in their area.
Cleveland will quest for the divided football people who still watch the ever-dreadful Browns and ever-glorious Ohio State. In Detroit, the NFL’s Lions aren’t so much the attention-getter as are Jim Harbaugh’s rejuvenated Michigan Wolverines and the always-potent Spartans of Michigan State.
Down in the Lone Star state no baseball ever played has ever been as important as what happens with the Texas Longhorns, Baylor Bears, Texas A&M Aggies, Houston Cougars, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Texas Christian Horned Frogs, SMU Mustangs or even Rice’s Owls.
If the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros were in a flat-footed tie in their National League division and they faced each other on a late-September Friday night, most of Texas would still be at one of the hundreds of high school football games made famous by “Friday Night Lights.”
Baseball can’t match the interest in anything football in the state of Texas.
Way out West in California, baseball has a firm grip on the hearts of millions. But so does pro football and even such college teams as Stanford, California, Southern California and UCLA.
The Giants and Dodgers will draw capacity crowds if they are playing each other. And the flocks at the games of the NFL’s 49ers and Raiders and new-to-town Los Angeles Rams will be shoe-horned into the seats as well.
Stanford has its loyalists and the Coliseum (Southern Cal) and Rose Bowl (UCLA) draw their share of sun-baked fans to college football attractions.
Baseball badly needs down-to-the-wire pennant scraps.
Which teams will hypnotize their fans with enough wins to snap into the postseason? Which ones will withdraw and slink into the winter months?
Cleveland thirsts for another winner. The last world title there came in 1948 when owner Bill Veeck was in charge. Toronto has again raised the hopes of those people who remember championships back in the early 1990s. And Boston creates a furor and frenzy any time it can challenge in the American League East.
College football and the NFL will claim the public’s attention in some outposts. .. but if there isn’t a September Swoon in most places there will be backed-by-dollars-for-tickets interest into early October and the playoffs.