Game Time Vs. Bedtime

By Philip Lerman
Sunday, October 14, 2007

The signs of fall are upon us: The days are shorter. The leaves are falling.

And dads are sitting in their basements, watching the baseball playoffs and getting ready for the World Series. Alone.

There was a time when fall was for bonding between fathers and children. When the thrill of your team making the postseason became a moment of shared joy, a chance to do something together that matters -- like root against the Dodgers.

No more.

We've all accepted night baseball, but it's gotten to the point where even the grownups have trouble staying up for the end of a World Series game, let alone our kids. I used to be a producer for Fox TV, so I know why this has happened, and I got to fight with the network over it every year. And every year I lost.

Fox has lost, too. And so have other outlets that carry postseason baseball. They've lost -- at least on the East Coast -- a generation of baseball fans.

I have a teenager and a kindergartner. I drove the teenager's carpool for years, and on the mornings after Series games, the sullen kids in the back seat got even more uncommunicative when I'd bring up the thrilling events of the night before.

"Not allowed to watch," they'd mutter. "Too late."

My 5-year-old took wildly to baseball this year: He got to run around the bases at RFK. He got an autograph at Camden Yards. And, with 7 p.m. game times, Max got to cuddle with me on the couch through the summer, teeth brushed and jammies on, to watch the Orioles and the Nats and my beloved Yankees. We made rhymes out of the players' names ("Jason Giambi, runs like a zombie!" "Derek Jeter, the Red Sox beater!") and only in the later innings moved on to the finer points of balls, strikes and why managers are allowed to kick dirt at the umpire, but you get in trouble for that in tee-ball.

So just as the season gets really exciting, how do I tell him that he has to stop watching? Sorry, son. For much of the Championship Series, and all of the World Series, it's first pitches around 8:15 (and sometimes even later) -- and bedtimes without baseball -- for all of us.

Add to that all the commercials they pack into these games, and it's a wonder that anyone east of Cleveland is still around when the game's over. And each year the TV ratings shrink, and the executives scratch their heads and wonder why. Maybe people just don't want to watch St. Louis, they ponder.

No, guys. They just don't want to watch St. Louis at 1 in the morning.

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