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Did you know that the NFL gets higher TV ratings than baseball?

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Christine Brennan of USA Today writes about how bad it is that a midseason NFL game got higher ratings than a postseason baseball game on Monday night:

There’s no better example of baseball’s problems than what happened Monday night. Going head to head with a midseason NFL game, MLB gave it its best shot: Game 3 of the series to end all series, the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees American League Division Series from Yankee Stadium, tied at one game apiece . . . So, the comparative ratings? The baseball game, which turned into a 16-1 Boston rout, attracted 4.41 million viewers. The football game, also a blowout, a 43-19 Saints victory notable for Brees’ all-time NFL passing yards record and nothing else, averaged 10.6 million viewers.

MLB’s masterpiece was pummeled by a run-of-the-mill NFL game.

I was as dumbfounded as you were when I read that. No, not at the ratings thing because everyone knows that the NFL gets higher ratings than baseball, always, and it’s the epitome of non-news to note it. No, I was dumbfounded that USA Today continues to let Brennan write the same damn column year after year.

Here she was in 2010:

The NFL was saddled with two of its smallest TV markets when the Tennessee Titans traveled to play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday Night Football. Against it was crucial Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, featuring the loved/despised New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers from the sports-crazed Dallas area.

It didn’t matter. The NFL game, a 30-3 Tennessee blowout, was watched by 7.2% of U.S. households, according to overnight ratings. The baseball game, which turned into an 8-0 Rangers rout only in the ninth inning, was on in 6.5% of homes.

How is this possible?

Here she was in 2011:

 . . . the Brewers, who drew more than 3 million fans this year while winning the National League Central, were playing at the same time as the Packers. Green Bay’s game against Denver turned into a 49-23 Packers rout. The Brewers also ended up winning big, 9-4, against Arizona. If I had had to guess, I would have said the TV ratings in Milwaukee for the two games would have been about equal, considering the Packers were early in their season, while the Brewers were in a crucial, best-of-five postseason series.

It wasn’t even close. The Packers attracted 44.1% of the households in Milwaukee, the Brewers just 20.3%.

Each time Brennan writes this column she has a different reason for why baseball gets lower ratings. In 2010 she attributed it all to baseball not having instant replay. In 2011 it was because of the odd start times and channels for playoff games. Today it’s because the games are too long. Shockingly, her explanations for baseball’s lower TV ratings tend to correspond with whatever criticisms she currently has about the state of baseball.

In none of her columns, however, does she state the simple truth of the matter: the NFL is a national sport/TV product in which its teams play only once every week in nationally-televised broadcasts while baseball is largely a regional one in which fans of teams who are not in the postseason have little desire to watch non-local teams with which they are unfamiliar. Between that, and (a) the undeniable fact that football is simply more popular across the board; and (b) the baseball games she mentions are broadcast on cable networks with far less reach than the networks on which the NFL appears, it would be really big news if a postseason baseball game got higher ratings than any NFL game. When, as is almost always, always the case, that does not happen, it is the definition of non-news.

Acknowledging that is not super convenient for Brennan, of course. For one thing, it totally kills the conceit one finds in many of her other baseball columns that baseball now is supposed to be like the baseball of her idealized youth: a true national pastime, both popular and pure. And if you doubt the “pure” part just take a look at some of her PED columns in the past in which she literally asked how parents are supposed to explain Jhonny Peralta — yes, Jhonny Peralta! — taking PEDs to their children. The only reason she didn’t include the phrase “say it ain’t so” is, presumably, because it does not rhyme with “Jhonny.” In other news, if you find a single parent or kid, anywhere, who genuinely gave a rat’s butt about the state of Jhonny Peralta’s moral character in the 2013 playoffs, I’ll give you a crisp $100 bill.

All that being said, I suspect the bigger problem to her acknowledging the actual reasons why the NFL and MLB get the sort of ratings they do is that doing so would kill an evergreen column idea, forcing her to write things about baseball that do not involve how it has gone to hell since her childhood.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Breakdown:

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.