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Home / Articles / Columnists / Sports Feature /  The Mystery of Sports? The Unexpected
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Thursday, October 4,2012

The Mystery of Sports? The Unexpected

By Mark Tudino  
It may be hard to believe, but not so long ago it was baseball – and not football – that was the national pastime. Of course, our culture – and our country – was a lot different then. The population after 1900 was based mostly in Eastern cities, of whom were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants, people eager to fit into the American fabric. Part of that fitting in meant learning what people cared about and, back then, our obsession was baseball. That’s no longer true (thanks to television, and sports gambling, the NFL now reigns supreme, but that‘s another discussion); however, no sport was more center-stage than baseball, specifically the World Series.

 

For the longest time determining which teams played in the World Series was simple; the National League champion played the American league champion and that was that. But money and expansion dictated a change, so the baseball playoffs were expanded – first in 1969, when divisional play was established, and then in 1995, when the wild card format was introduced.

By any measure both, moves succeeded; interest in many baseball towns now continued, whereas before if your team was out of it, you basically stopped paying attention. And baseball, unlike other sports, rarely has unexpected teams which compete for its championship, as the usual cast of characters can be counted upon to fight for the title in October.

Which brings us to this year.

In cities where competing for the playoffs was thought to be virtually impossible, there is now hope. Teams in Baltimore, Milwaukee, Washington and Cincinnati fight for the chance to play the big boys and represent their towns in the Fall Classic. Those squads are all in contention, but this year there’s a bonus: the Lords of Baseball have once again expanded the playoffs to include, not one, but two wild card teams. That means organizations that last made the playoffs, like the Orioles (in 1997), the Nationals ( in 1981, as the Montreal Expos), the Reds (once since 1995) and the Brewers (once since 1982) all have a chance to achieve something a generation of their fans have yet to see: a post-season berth. And that’s a good thing.

See, the true beauty of sports is that its outcomes are not always predetermined, like so much else in our daily lives. So when a Baltimore or a Cincinnati succeeds, it reminds us all of what is possible, and of why we wake up each day to see if our guys have done something good.

So, batter up... homestretch, here we come!

 

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