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Monday, September 26, 2011
The beauty is in the 162 games

By Steve Berthiaume

It's every day. That's where you find the real beauty of the thing. Win or lose, payoff or no payoff; the reward is found in that continuity. That's the gift of the 162 games. What happened today? Did they win or lose? Did the other guys win or lose? The lead was 3 or 4 just a few days ago ... what is it now, 1 game? Who do we play tomorrow? Where are they tomorrow? Who's pitching? Skip a day and you might miss something, like a three-run home run in the 14th inning or a bases-loaded wild pitch to win the game.

It can be background music or it can be front and center for you every night. Check in for just a few minutes or settle in for a few hours; each time it's an opportunity for redemption or catastrophe. It is storylines that emerge from back story in July to become headlines in September or character development that you've been noticing all summer and plot twists that no one saw coming. Sure, it matters if you win or lose, but it's the idea that baseball can be a daily experience that's really the payoff. In our 140-character culture, that still means something.

"Football is king." Baseball enthusiasts hear that incessantly these days. Those people are missing the point. Football is fast food, once a week, five days spent mindlessly considering which groin pull or knee strain is going to potentially cost you fantasy points this weekend. Football doesn't ask much: Just a few hours of your attention each week, time that can be spent celebrating the other activity that is king in America -- sitting around eating vast quantities of horrible food while watching television. Football is the lowest common denominator.

Baseball asks a lot of you. It requires daily attention, but that turns out to be the reward, and we're seeing that right now in this remarkable finish to the regular season. The Red Sox and the Braves have each seen postseason spots that appeared guaranteed just a few weeks ago now threatened to within one game of extinction. Rays and Cardinals fans who last month might have only checked in for a few minutes now settle in for a few hours. It's been right there for them the whole time.

Monday is a new day and then there are two more games left. After that, who knows? Somehow, once again, it's been a thrilling ride and every one of the 162 games somehow mattered. That's the real beauty of the thing, and there's nothing else like it.

Follow Steve Berthiaume on Twitter @SBerthiaumeESPN.