It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
High school fall sports are in full swing. There’s a nip in the air as we delve deeper into the autumn climate. The Atlanta Falcons are continuing their annual tradition of blowing double-digit leads in the fourth quarter.
It’s almost starting to feel like a normal year again, isn’t it?
This week, the proverbial cherry will be placed right on top of the delicious dessert that is the fall.
That’s right, folks. The calendar flips to October this week, which means it’s time for the MLB playoffs to commence.
And yet it seems like we were only just getting started, doesn’t it? As if we’re still roughly, oh, 102 games away from deciding who should make it into the postseason and who should be relegated to the couch to watch the drama unfold like the rest of us?
Ah, yes. That’s right. I guess this year hasn’t been completely normal after all.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 MLB regular season was trimmed down from a 162-game marathon to a 60-game sprint. In addition, the playoff field was expanded from 10 teams to 16 teams.
Fans were critical of the changes. The media expressed doubt that a season could be completed. Questions continuously popped up as MLB — along with the rest of the world — found itself handling the coronavirus on a day-by-day basis.
And you know what? It’s been incredible.
I once considered myself to be a baseball purist. I thought the best part about the game was that it had essentially remained unchanged throughout its long history. But I’ve since seen the error of my ways and come to accept that sports, like anything else, have two choices in this modern world: adapt or die.
So, I’ll admit that I’ve enjoyed investing in the daily drama of a shortened season where the importance of each game is heightened. I’ll admit that I’ve enjoyed seven-inning doubleheaders and wacky extra-inning rules that place runners on bases to open up the frame.
And I’ll admit that the notion of starting a postseason with 16 teams — more than half of the 30 clubs in MLB — made no sense to me at first. But now I can’t wait to see what kind of drama is awaiting us.
Sure, it helps that I have a dog in the fight. I’ve lived in Georgia for 23 of my 24 years on this earth, so it’s in my blood to root for the Atlanta Braves. But the two people who brought me into this world — and subsequently raised me — both grew up just outside of Chicago. So I’d be kidding myself — and quite possibly disowned — if I didn’t acknowledge that I’m partial to the Cubs as well.
But deep down, I’m still just a kid who loves a game.
Will I root for the Braves to beat the Cincinati Reds in the National League Wild Card round? You bet. Would I like to see the Cubs get past the Miami Marlins in their first-round matchup? Of course.
But even if both teams fall short, I know I’m going to still enjoy every second of this postseason. Because everyone has a favorite season. For most it’s fall, spring, summer or winter.
For me, it’s baseball. Play ball.
Mason Wittner is the sports editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at @mason_wittner.