The stuff hits the fans
The song? “Red Rain,” by Peter Gabriel.
“Red rain is falling down. Red Rain. Red Rain is falling down all over me.”
We’ve now entered the world of the surreal, Phillies fans.
Yes, we have seen this before. The year was 1977. Phillies vs. Dodgers. The game was delayed two hours because of a driving rain. Major League Baseball decided to start the game anyhow. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and National League President Chub Feeney sat in their box seats without rain coats. Great night for a ballgame. Steve Carlton and the Phillies lost to Tommy John, 4-1. The Dodgers won the pennant.
I didn’t think I would ever see a similar travesty. I was wrong. I saw it on Saturday. It took 31 years, but baseball once again showed exactly what it thinks of the people who pay the bills to walk through the turnstiles.
They never for a second considered postponing that Saturday game. It had been pouring all day, a really nasty wind-driven day. But the forecast called for clearing at night. That’s all baseball needed to hear.
Fans didn’t have to wait another three decades to have it rubbed in their faces again. How about two days?
What happened Monday night is kind of hard to explain. Maybe it really is Philadelphia. Maybe we are cursed. Call it the curse of Bowie Kuhn.
It was raining at the start of the game last night. But Major League Baseball clearly had no interest in postponing the game. What followed was a slow descent into what the front page of our print edition correctly describes as a “Rain of Error.”
A few innings into the game, it was pouring. Water was starting to collect on the field. Now baseball was stuck, because the Phillies were ahead. In the top of the sixth, it looked like a monsoon was enveloping Citizens Bank Park.
In the top of the sixth the Rays tied the game. That gave Commissioner Bud Selig the “out” he so desperately needed. It apparently wasn’t raining hard enough to stop the game in the fourth, fifth, or top of the sixth, but as soon as the Rays tied the game, Selig suddenly came to his senses and stopped play.
Here’s the deal, one fans should come to realize. You don’t matter. The game is no longer played for you. It is played for TV, for programming, for entertainment, and most importantly as a vehicle to sell products.
That’s why the season now runs so long, giving us games featuring the Boys of Summer playing in games where the temperature never breaks 50.
That’s why games are no longer played in the afternoon sunshine, when kids might actually be able to play them.
That’s why these are now prime time affairs, all the better to push ratings and sell commercials.
That’s why the night games no longer can start at 7 or 7:30. They have to be pushed back to prime time. The TV production might start at 8, but the first pitch does not occur until 8:35.
That’s why the breaks between innings are now stretched out, because extra commercial time has been sold.
The conditions in which the Rays and Phillies played, first Saturday and then last night, were atrocious. Fans were forced to sit around all afternoon with no word from baseball’s brass about a postponement. They shouldn’t have held their breath. It was never going to happen. Baseball never considered the fans and the conditions they had to endure either night. That’s because the fans don’t matter.
Saturday was cold, raining and miserable. Fans were forced to sit through a one hour and 36 minute delay. Major League Baseball started a World Series game after 10 p.m.
Last night was worse. It was raining at the start of the game, but baseball marched on.
It wasn’t fair to the Rays. It wasn’t fair to the Phillies.
But it was actually cruel to the fans. The Phillies set an all-time attendance record this year. Doesn’t matter. None of that matters. The fans don’t matter.
Baseball proved that once and for all last night.
Maybe we are cursed. Somewhere Bowie Kuhn is chuckling in his grave. There have been 603 World Series games played in World Series history. This is the first time a game has ever been suspended.
The game is supposed to pick up tonight at 8, weather permitting. Don’t be fooled by that. Even if they play, first pitch won’t happen before 8:30.
Bud Selig will make sure of that.
It is still raining as I write this Tuesday morning.
Maybe a heavy fog will roll in tonight. We’ve seen that before, too. Anyone remember the Fog Bowl?
Who knows how many people will show up at Citizens Bank Park tonight. Who knows how many people no longer have their tickets, or have made other plans, or need to juggle travel arrangements.
Maybe the game will be played in a stadium only half full.
Doesn’t matter. Bud Selig and baseball will soldier on.
That’s because the fans don’t matter.
Red Rain, falling down all over us.