Diamonds are forever
By Bob Halloran
Special to Page 2

Life is about making choices. Sometimes they work out. Sometimes you pay to see the Cincinnati Bengals.

Some choices are more difficult than others. No matter how daring it seems to you when you first make the choice to wear a brown belt with black shoes, it's nothing compared to choosing a home, a job, a spouse or a sensible dessert. We seem to have a lot of choices for things that don't matter -- like 37 different flavors of coffee, and very few choices for things that matter most. We only get two major presidential candidates, and we can no longer choose any doctor we want; we have to select one that's part of the company health plan. We can have a hundred TV channels to choose from, but only one cable company.

Starbucks
Starbucks: the last bastion of choice in America.
Too often choices are made for us, and sometimes we've got no choice at all. And sometimes the choices are limitless. But the decisions we make define who we are. We may choose to be a parent, a teacher, a Republican, a vegetarian or all of the above -- which would make you a salad-eating conservative who's worried about paying college tuition on a teacher's salary. The choice is yours.

I choose baseball over football every time. Of course, Sunday night, thanks to the wisdom of schedule makers in Major League Baseball and the NFL, there's no conflict, and therefore, no choice to be made. There's no "Sunday Night Football" game opposing Game 2 of the World Series. So, the obvious choice is to enjoy football-related viewing from 11 a.m. (Eastern) until 8 p.m., and then turn to the Wild Wild West Series (that's the name I've created, and I'm trying to push it as much as possible to see if I can be the one to dub a Series. I always wanted to be a dubber. If I see it on a T-shirt, I think I'll get verklempt.)

Ah, but next Sunday, when the Giants and Angels might very well be locked in the throes of a Game 7, the Washington Redskins will be playing the Indianapolis Colts. Now, we have conflict. A World Series Game 7 versus a Week 7 match-up of two teams meeting for the first time since Adam lost a rib. And despite being a loyal company man, I will remain forever bewildered by the millions of people who would look at someone like Steve Spurrier and choose his story over history. Forget about your big Sunday get-togethers and your tailgating, and think about the game. Baseball was then, is now, and forever shall be better than football. The choice is simple and made simpler by considering a few simple facts:

Let's start with the words: Football versus baseball. Baseball is a ballgame with bases. It makes sense. It was suitably named. Football is a game that has very little to do with a foot. Balls, by the way, are round objects. Footballs aren't even balls. The sport can't even find an appropriate name for itself. Football is a sport that other sports mock behind its back. A baseball is beautiful. It would be the prom queen in a high school for balls. A football wouldn't even get a date. It would have no friends and be voted "most likely to deflate."

Magic numbers: Baseball has 'em. Football doesn't. 500 homers, 300 wins, 100 RBI, .300 hitter, etc. Football has thousand-yard rushers and receivers. Some attention is paid to 4,000 yards passing. And that's about it. Everybody knows 755 home runs. Only a few know exactly how many yards Walter Payton had, and his record is being talked about constantly this year. How many home runs did Mel Ott have? 511 (the same number of wins as Cy Young). How many passing yards did Dan Marino have? Do you think you could get within a thousand?

Luis Gonzalez
With one swing in the bottom of the ninth, Gonzo made history.
World Series Classics vs Super Bowl Busts: We've actually had a few good Super Bowls lately. Last year is obvious, and the Titans missed by a yard a few years ago. There was Joe Montana to John Taylor and "wide right," but out of 36 Super Bowls, only six have been decided by fewer than seven points. Meanwhile, the World Series has given us Luis Gonzalez last year, Joe Carter's walkoff homer in '93, Jack Morris' seventh-game 10-inning shutout in '91, the entire 1975 series in which five of the seven games were decided by one run, and the list goes on. You'd seriously consider missing a Game 7? I think if your wife goes into labor during the ninth inning of a Game 7, you have the right to be mad at her while driving to the hospital and looking for the game on the car radio.

Halftime: Oh, are the poor babies tired? Why don't you go to the locker room and take a nap?

Schedule: 162 games played, eight playoff teams. 16 games played, 12 playoff teams. You do the math.

Late hits vs. late hits: In baseball, they win games. In football, somebody gets flagged or hurt, or both.

Instant replay: Football has it. Baseball doesn't. It's a matter of humanity versus technology. Sometimes the beauty is in the flaws. Look at the Mona Lisa or the mole on Cindy Crawford's cheek. These games weren't invented with 16 cameras in mind. Instant replay is like changing one of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution (a k a The Bill of Rights). The "framers" of football and baseball didn't intend to have time wasted with boys under the hood. They intended for mankind to mete out its own justice -- swiftly.

Sudden death overtime with a twist: As soon as somebody scores in football, the game is over. But in baseball, if the visitors score first, there's still a chance for the home team to win on its next possession -- so to speak. It's all about the drama.

Defense wins championships vs. good pitching beats good hitting: As far as clichés are concerned, it's about even, but football loses every time somebody says "you have to establish the run." No, I don't, but you have to shut up.

Foul balls: In baseball, you get to keep them. If a football happens to make its way into the crowd, you have to throw it back like it's some kind of catch-and-release stream. Are the footballs really that expensive that the NFL can't afford to give away one or two per game? Note to the NFL: Bring a few extra game balls with you. Would it kill ya?

Quarterbacks vs. catchers: One keeps his hands to himself. The other goes under center.

Gridiron vs. diamond: That's an easy call.

Barry Bonds
Bonds carries the game's history on his shoulder -- take that, Emmitt.
History: Just as an example: Barry Bonds is being compared to Babe Ruth, who hit his last home run when FDR was president for the first time. Football couldn't even compare Johnny Unitas to any of today's great quarterbacks, because the game has changed so drastically. Football offers very little connection to the past, and that's a shame.

Injuries: Things like Jay Fiedler playing with a broken thumb vs. any pitcher leaving with a blister. The edge should go to football here, but baseball players can be so pathetic it makes for great entertainment.

Commercial breaks: Say what you want about baseball being a slow game. At least the action, such as it is, continues for long intervals. Football never gets criticized enough for taking so many breaks. A team scores a touchdown. Break. Come back for the kickoff. Break. Three plays and out. Let's take another break. Give me a break!

Timelessness vs. the two-minute warning: One of baseball's greatest attributes is that it can go on forever. Sometimes it even feels like it does. That's when Kansas City and Detroit are playing a 16-12 five-hour marathon. But a playoff game headed for the 14th inning is just greatness piled up on tension on top of splendor.

Steve Spurrier: 'Nuff said.

Defense vs. defense: A 0-0 football game stinks. A 0-0 baseball game is awesome. It even takes care of the only valid criticism of today's game -- because it speeds things along.

Football seems to be the choice of the new generation. But for one day, for the seventh game of the World Series, how can you pass that up for a bunch of meaningless passes? Maybe we won't get to choose, because the Series won't make it to a climactic seventh heaven. But if it does, the choice will be yours. Are you a leader or a follower? Are you a thinker or a drinker? Patient or impatient? Are you man or woman enough to handle two or three hours of foreplay? Remember, the choice you make will define who you are for the rest of your life.

And put the remote down. You don't get to choose both. Make a commitment! This isn't like choosing a lifelong partner. This is serious stuff. It's baseball or football.

Bob Halloran is an anchorman for ESPNEWS.





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