Fall began officially here in New England with last night’s 28-21 Patriots win over the Steelers. Yes,folks, fall truly starts not when the temperatures cool or the leaves fall, not when the days get shorter or the pumpkins appear at farm stands, not when school buses slow rush-hour traffic or lobster rolls disappear from menus.
It starts when the National Football League says it does—with the first official game. And life changes. Fall is when:
- Terms like “first in ten,” “point after” and “goal to go” reappear in the regional vocabulary.
- Tom Brady becomes the most important person in New England.
- Bill Belichick demonstrates what a grown man dressing like a seventh grader looks like.
- Family activities are organized around game time.
- Foxboro replaces Boston as the capital of Massachusetts.
- More Patriots jerseys appear in public than Red Sox gear.
- 60 Minutes—consistently one of the top 25 TV shows in the country—isn’t allowed to start until Sunday’s NFL game is over.
Last night the six o’clock news was like a Patriots pep rally on all the Boston stations. You might think the world had stopped because of the game.
Not a Fan
OK, I admit that I’m not a football fan. I can watch it and sometimes, like the divisional playoffs, I can even enjoy it. But I will never put @Patriots on if I’m alone in the house. I will watch the Red Sox by myself, though, because I’m a baseball fan. Maybe that’s because I played pickup baseball as a kid and softball in high school. Mostly, though, I think it’s because I find baseball more complex for at least 10 reasons.
- All the players play both offense and defense
(except for American League pitchers).
- Success requires both strategy and tactics (yes, that also applies to football).
- You have to hit a ball traveling 90 miles an hour with a narrow stick.
- It combines personal achievement (home runs, great catches) and teamwork (sacrifice flies, double plays).
- It blends stillness and anticipation with bursts of all-out effort and startling grace.
- It ain’t over ‘til it’s over—even if it takes 22 innings.
- Success does not depend on body checking and tackles.
- Concussions are not a hazard of the job.
- You can’t deflate a baseball.
- Anything can happen—and often does.
George Carlin’s great comedy routine gave us even more differences. I encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already seen it — and laugh.
Playing by Football Rules
I have sometimes wondered, though, what the game would look like if we played baseball by football rules.
- There would be separate teams for offense and defense. Fielders would warm the bench and rest up while the team’s hitters filed into the batter’s box.i
- Innings would be determined by the clock instead of the third out.
- Offensive team members would be fat and rock solid while defensive team members would be thin and fast.
- A Special Teams unit would be deployed to lay down bunts and steal bases, moving in and out of the game at will.
- Runs would be worth seven points.
- After every run scored, the offensive team would get a free shot at another run for two additional points.
- Infielders could tackle a runner on the base path.
- No player could catch a foul ball because anything outside the foul lines wouldn’t count.
- Pitchers would wear little white towels front and back.
- The players would all wear Spandex uniforms in gaudy colors with lots of padding. (Good for Brock Hoult, not so good for C.C.Sabathia).
See? That’s why I shake my head every time a special teams player comes in just to kick the football through the goal posts and then leaves the field. It just seems so, well, indulgent.
Good Games Ahead
But I’m of good cheer. The baseball season is still going and there will be many good games between now and October. Plus, @RedSox are humming again after a really bad start when a lot of starting players hit the disabled list.
Interim manager Torey Lovullo pulled almost a whole new lineup from the minors and put them on the field. He must also have told them to go out and have a good time, show us all what they can do, and hustle. No pressure. They responded with an energy Fenway Park hadn’t seen all season. The kids are all right and they’re keeping baseball fun as if summer is still going on, despite the NFL’s declaration of fall.
I’ll root for the Patriots in October — or possibly November.