Learning to Love the MLB's Crazy New Wildcard Games

More

Folks,

Fighting for yesteryear is never fun, especially in a hidebound sport like our National Pastoral. Um... Pastime. Resisting change in MLB can make anyone feel like a Grumpy Old Man, always complaining that life was better before the DH, back when no team made the postseason without winning a division, and all the smartphones were rotary dial.

MLB's postseason mission creep surely fits what's happening in the wider world of American sport. Big 10 basketball got their postseason tournament. NASCAR went to a postseason-like Chase format. College football tore up their bowl system, turning a charming if rickety old ritual into half-baked championship. As a nation we no longer seem to care as much about who proves themselves best over an entire season. We only care who gets hot at the end.

One could claim that this national fetish for play-ins, playoffs, sudden deaths, walk-offs, and wildcards is emblematic of a broader shift in the culture. Especially now that even baseball, our snowglobe from the 19th century, has been sucked into the Sudden Death cult, you could argue that the change in our sports represents a sad commentary on the state of the American Dream, speaking to our collective loss of belief in the idea that hard work and perseverance will be rewarded, and the replacement by a half-desperate gambler's faith in mere flukes, hot streaks, and lucky breaks.

You could argue that. But you would sound like a pompous toad.

It's a freaking game. MLB's postseason changes might offend me in some vaguely cranky way, but not enough to have kept me from watching a play-in game, or to keep me from watching every wildcard match-up with slavish devotion.

Life is change. Everyone and everything, even pro sports leagues, must adapt to survive. And MLB, finally, for once, seems to be getting it right. Let's celebrate that.

Jake, that play-in game for a trip to a playoff game which leads to the actual playoffs sounds like a lot of fun, doesn't it? Patrick, after making "television cash grab" sound like a bad thing, you make playing the World Series at a neutral, warm-weather site sound like the End Times. Why? Your words are duly marked. Still, spending two otherwise winter-ish weeks in, like, Miami would be more fun and make for a better brand of baseball than shuffling between Baltimore and Detroit.

Besides, what's the real danger of single game play-in? Too many upsets? Oh. America may not have actually been an underdog at anything since the War of 1812, but we love a dark-horse canine nevertheless.

–Hampton

Jump to comments
Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In