The Super Bowl always struck me as the real American Thanksgiving. Everyone still comes together to celebrate, but rather than turkey and awkward conversations with that one aunt you forgot you had, you get chili cheese nachos and day-drinking with your friends. Ironically, the Super Bowl is only tangentially about football, whereas Thanksgiving is consumed by the tradition of football (Squanto taught the Pilgrims the virtues of the play-action pass. Or something). The Super Bowl is Americana at it’s finest, bringing us all together to celebrate hard work, dedication, brainwashing via advertising, and crappy pop music. Football is America’s current national pastime, and the Super Bowl is the most American event on the calendar, sports or otherwise.
Some still consider baseball the national pastime – they’re wrong, but they still consider it. Baseball is my favorite sport, but even I can’t deny the hype-machine that is the NFL. Millions of people that couldn’t distinguish Crabtree from crab grass will watch the game this weekend. How many people can you say that about the World Series?
The World Series — probably the second most recognizable championship in American sports — isn’t without virtues, though. This being a baseball blog,* let’s compare the World Series to the Super Bowl to see which is the superior event. The Super Bowl is more popular and that won’t change for a while, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the event is better.
* And, surprisingly, not just a vehicle to feed my narcissism and desire to write about football.
On Field Excitement
Few things in life are more face-meltingly exciting than a close playoff baseball game. The anticipation between pitches in a big at-bat are enough to make one run through a brick wall. During the ridiculous Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, the one where David Freese cemented his October legend, I didn’t have fingernails after the game, and I didn’t even have a rooting interest in the game. Such is the power of baseball.
And with baseball, you have 4-7 chances at drama. Game 1 sucks? Oh well, try again tomorrow. The odds that all the games are boring blowouts is pretty unlikely.
Where the Super Bowl has the advantage though, is that the game is always single elimination. Every play could literally be the one that determines the champion. Remember this James Harrison interception in Super Bowl XLIII? That play almost literally won the game for the Steelers, and without it, we’d all be living in a world where the Arizona Cardinals won a Super Bowl. That’s not something most of our brains could handle, frankly.
The World Series doesn’t enter single elimination territory very often. Since 1998, only three World Series have played a seventh game, and the only memorable one is the 2001 contest between the Yankees and Diamondbacks. Also since 1998, six World Series have been sweeps. So using that as scientific law, you’re twice as likely to get a dog of a World Series as you are to get a winner-take-all game. So the Super Bowl wins this category, right?
Well, no. Fewer things suck more than a crap Super Bowl that’s over after kick off. If a World Series game is a blowout, you can turn the game off and watch Moonshiners because you probably don’t have people over for the game. But for the Super Bowl, you’re pot committed since you have company. If the game is a blowout, then you have to, like, converse with others. Nobody wants that. We’ve been lucky with some good Super Bowls of late, but beware something like this happening. Never forget.
Advantage: World Series
Stress of Having Your Team Involved
The Angels have only played in one World Series, in 2002. It was a different time, and I was an immature freshman just starting high school; 2002 me probably would have voted for Miguel Cabrera to win MVP (sorry, had to get that cheap shot in). But I still loved baseball then, and watching the Angels in the World Series was more thrilling than nauseating. Like I said above, the entire series didn’t potentially rest on every pitch, and it was easy to take the Game 1 loss in stride since there were still potentially six games remaining. Yeah, I was bummed about the 16-4 Game 5 drubbing and practically catatonic after the Giants took a 5-0 Game 6 lead, but overall I don’t remember wanting to pull my hair out that often.
I’m a 49ers fan, and this Sunday will be the first time I’ve watched them in the Super Bowl. The last time they were in the Super Bowl was 18 years ago, and I didn’t start caring about the NFL until the next year, because of course. Suffice it to say, I’m going to be a miserable human being to watch the game with on Sunday. In the NFC Championship game against the Falcons, I literally punched my door (open fisted, like that makes it sound less pathological) after the 49ers 4th down stop that sealed the game. I am dreading this Super Bowl, which is annoying because the Super Bowl is one of my favorite days of the year. The stress of a winner-take-all game is slowly crushing my soul, and it’s possible I’m divorced by Tuesday. So yeah.
Advantage: World Series, for not sending me to an early grave
Quality of Broadcast
Advantage: Super Bowl
The Super Bowl individually numbers each game, suggesting that each game is it’s own compelling story and leaves the impression that each unit offers the teams and viewers a certain level of finality, creating more psychological drama. That’s kind of cool.
The World Series is not numbered. Yeah you’ll hear Joe Buck say something like “welcome back to the 98th World Series on Fox” every now and then, but nobody remembers the World Series by the number. If you tell me a Super Bowl number after 29, I can at least tell you the teams that played and who won. The World Series is part of a larger narrative, where characters like Bob Gibson and Mickey Mantle share space with Albert Pujols and Brad Fullmer. The World Series is like The NeverEnding Story, and that movie creeped me out as a kid.
But seriously Super Bowl, Roman numerals? I didn’t sign up for math class when I became a football fan. I barely paid attention to the one day in 3rd grade when my teacher went over Roman numerals. Sure I can figure it out if I need to, but I graduated college, and the point of that was so I wouldn’t have to learn anything ever again. Enough with the Roman numerals.
Advantage: World Series
Since the World Series is stretched over a week, it’s not really an “event.” I usually end up watching the games by myself while following all the lulz on Twitter. “Such an idiot, I bet Keith Law is going to Tweet #TOOTBLAN after that.” And sure enough, Keith Law Tweets TOOTBLAN and others Tweet “derp” and we all have a merry time. Twitter is my virtual family, but like if my family didn’t know I existed and barely paid attention to me. We make it work.
This Sunday, like most Super Bowls, I’ll watch the game with some family and friends. Having company can help if the game particularly sucks (and if Moonshiners isn’t on); one year, my buddies and I got tired of the game and played an impromptu card game. That’s more fun than if I’m by myself and playing an impromptu game of Angry Birds Star Wars. Company is usually nice, but as stated above, I’m going to be an insufferable douchebag this weekend, so we’ll see.
Advantage: Super Bowl, usually. Just not this weekend.
Excuse to Drink Too Much
Super Bowl is a great excuse to irresponsibility drink to get buzzed on a work night. It’s once a year, and everyone at work is going to feel equally disgusted as you. And the more you drink, the more entertaining the commercials will be, and you’ll be way funnier making fun of the halftime performer and Cris Collinsworth’s head. Beyonce is going to be the guest of honor at the Karcher Household Roast, she just doesn’t know it yet.
The World Series could extend to seven games, and if you watch it by yourself like I do, saucing it up is probably not the best idea. That’s a rabbit hole best avoided.
Advantage: Super Bowl
The World Series often starts pretty quickly after the LCS rounds, so there’s little time to hype up the event. Conversely, we have two weeks between the Super Bowl and the previous round, and it’s a loooooong two weeks. Hey, did you guys know that Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh are brothers, and that they’re coaching against each other in the Super Bowl? And that Ray Lewis is retiring/a PED user/kind of a lunatic? Since when did Alex Smith stop starting? Joe Flacco is elite. No he’s not. Yes he is. Ed Reed likes Honey Nut Cheerios but not Cap’n Crunch, should this disqualify him from the Hall of Fame?
Advantage: World Series
Nobody wagers on the World Series. For the Super Bowl? I always end up with a 5-5 in the office pool. Man, f*** those squares.
Advantage: World Series
In perhaps a shocking upset, the World Series defeats the Super Bowl, 5-3. What did you expect, this is an Angels blog? Of course I was going to pick baseball, I rigged the system.
Here’s my pick you didn’t ask for: I like the Ravens +4, but I think the 49ers squeak out a close win, something like 23-20, with NaVorro Bowman winning MVP and me rioting sans shirt.
Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone!
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewkarcher.