About a year and a half ago, I moved to the city of St. Louis, where I met my new neighbor, Jon, a diehard college basketball fan from Louisville, KY, who could not understand for the life of him how I could possibly love a sport as "boring" as baseball. "It's too slow," he would often comment to me, "Nothing ever happens." While I tried to teach him about the game and my reasoning for my particular passion, he still refused to believe anyone with some intelligence could enjoy watching baseball over sports like basketball or football. My cause became even worse when I forced him to watch a couple of the 2010 World Series games with me, as I even failed to be entertained by a truly eventless Texas Rangers-San Francisco Giants World Series.
One year later, after being continuously lectured that the incredibleness of the 2011 NBA season should have clearly explained to me why baseball is so comparatively dull, I decided to try again. I sat Jon down with me on the last day of the 2011 regular season and convinced him to watch some baseball for a couple of hours, as so much was on the line for so many teams. After an extra-inning duel between the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves, a bullpen collapse from the Boston Red Sox, and a miraculous comeback from the Tampa Bay Rays, the baseball spoke for itself. Over the next two weeks, we watched the St. Louis Cardinals run through the dominance of the Philadelphia Phillies and the powerhouse of the Milwaukee Brewers, a thought that to me was astonishing enough to prove my point as to how dramatic and exciting baseball could be and why baseball, regardless of its competition, has been known as our country's national pastime for so long.
Suddenly, just 30 days after the Cardinals barely squeaked their way into the playoffs, there I was with Jon, sitting in the upper deck of Busch Stadium for game six of the World Series. Two months later, I think how the Cardinals won that game is a concept that all baseball fans are still trying to comprehend. How did Nelson Cruz not think to play David Freese's ball off the wall in the Rangers' theoretical no-doubles defense? How were the Cardinals able to come back after being down to their last strike, twice, a feat that only the 1986 Mets have accomplished in the modern era? Down on five separate occasions to the Texas Rangers throughout the night, game six of the World Series is one of those games that all baseball fans will vividly remember for the rest of their lives, and David Freese's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning is one of those moments that truly resurrected baseball's popularity in America.
If Major League Baseball accomplished nothing else over the past 12 months, it unintentionally displayed why it is still one of the premier spectator sports in the world. While it is undoubtedly true that football, and some might even argue basketball, has surpassed baseball over the past quarter-century or so, the baseball that our society witnessed over the past year successfully reminded, or in some cases taught, members of a younger generation the beauty of baseball and the kind of satisfaction it can bring to its fans, one that is different from an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass or a Lebron James slam dunk. From the milestones achieved by Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, to the heroics of people like Dan Johnson and Albert Pujols, to the marvelous comebacks from the Tampa Bay Rays and more notably the St. Louis Cardinals, the 2011 installment of Major League Baseball is going to be hard to beat in 2012, but at least when Opening Day arrives in April, I'll have one more person to enjoy it with.