The NCAA Tournament is Making Baseball Fun (Again?)

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Look, I get it. Some people think baseball is boring. I’m tired of the arguments, and I realize I’m not convincing anyone to love baseball in a 10-minute conversation, no matter how passionate I can be. So I’m going to try a different route.

Now that we’ve officially hit the dreaded “dead zone” on the sports calendar, many fans will claim to be bored. The Stanley Cup and NBA Finals are officially behind us, and we are still months away from any good news in the NFL. My suggestion to overcome your boredom? Check out the College World Series.

Prior to September & October, I think the few weeks of June of the NCAA Baseball Tournament might be my favorite baseball to watch all season. And that’s coming from someone who watches a lot of regular season MLB games. Most importantly, I just think it’s a more entertaining variation of the game that I love, and is a phenomenal entry-point to those people who “don’t get” the allure of baseball.

College Baseball has solved ways to “Make Baseball Fun (Again).” This is inherently due, in part, to the youth and exuberance of the players. While a handful of these players will end up making an impact in the big leagues some day, most will just end up being the dude jacking 400-foot homeruns in your beer league. That means these kids are playing with house money. There is no tomorrow for them. The Super Regionals were played in raucous home parks, and the College World Series under the lights in Omaha. Everything is on ESPN. You can feel how excited these kids are through the TV. This is a welcome contrast to the MLB, when the only time you can really feel player emotion is after a walk-off win.

By the same token, college baseball doesn’t have quite the same “unwritten rules” issue that permeates through Major League Baseball. Sure, you might get yelled at for taking too long rounding the bases, but it just ends in a little trash talk and players move on. Maybe the intensity increases, but no one is taking a fastball to the dome. Instead, you see creative celebrations and dances after base hits. Pitchers yell in ecstasy after a big strikeout or incredible play in the field. The dugout empties after seemingly every run. EVERYTHING MATTERS. In a game that gets criticized for being too dull, you can feel the weight in every out in the tournament.

I do understand that this is just another three weeks of playoff atmosphere baseball, only in June instead of October. But that’s not the whole story. So here are the other ways that NCAA Baseball has made the sport fun, and not just because of the playoff stakes.

The Antics

I am definitely partial to this sort of stuff because I grew up playing baseball, and didn’t stop playing competitively until this year. But a look into a college dugout provides joy like few non-action moments can in sports. The rally caps, rally cups, rally pickles, and fake radar guns are notably absent at the professional level, but these shenanigans make for great television and puts the joy of the game on display.

https://twitter.com/NCAACWS/status/871584939074093058?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fm.mlb.com%2Fcutfour%2F2017%2F06%2F05%2F234580584%2Fa-bethune-cookman-coach-used-a-diy-radar-gun-to-convince-his-players-they-could-hit-florida-pitching

The Fans

Fans in Nashville and the Bay Area have been, deservedly, getting a lot of credit these past few weeks for the atmospheres they create when their pro teams get going. Likewise, the fans of the Dominican Republic got a lot of credit in March for giving the World Baseball Classic the feel of international soccer. Professional baseball is marked, especially on TV, with fan apathy. During the course of a three-hour game, it’s easy to be lulled into paying more attention to your phone than the game. But not in the Super Regionals (and certainly not in Omaha). Case in point: the Texas A&M fans, in a tradition that rivals the best player-taunting I’ve ever seen, rattled a Davidson pitcher to the point he needed to be taken out of the game last week. Great fans can make any game-watch more enjoyable, and college baseball fans are some of the best in the business.

The Facial Hair

Setting aside the facial hair standards that many professional teams put in place, a grown man’s facial hair needs to be truly exceptional for it to be entertaining. Not in college. Not only are there some impressive mustaches being worn through this tournament, but it’s always more fun watching college kids try and grow facial hair. Usually, it doesn’t work so well, and when it does, it’s just an added bonus.

The Unis

The Vanderbilt Sunday Blues. A&M’s throwbacks. Carolina Blue and LSU Purple & Gold. College jerseys combine the best of tradition and innovation, and make the game easy on the eyes. Plus, they shouldn’t have to worry about anyone going all Edward Scissorhands on their unis pregame.

The Dogpile

One of the best celebrations in sports, and a true Omaha tradition. I think the unlimited GIFs online do it justice.

The list goes on and on, but the point remains the same. I know some people may consider me a masochist for the amount of baseball I watch. It can get dicey. I used to listen to games on the radio while watching different games on TV. Luckily I grew out of that phase. But I’m always trying to figure out how to properly express the joy I can get from baseball, and the College World Series might just be the best way I know how. So if you’re feeling up to giving baseball a chance, hunker down and tune into the showdowns in Omaha. You might just enjoy it.

The College World Series is played will be played in Omaha from June 17th-27th. More information can be found here.

Featured Photo courtesy of The Portland Tribune.

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Max is a dreaded Coastie, growing up rooting for the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins while on a beach in Rhode Island. He's also a Cavs fan, but that's harder to explain. If you can think of a movie that more perfectly captures the spirit of America than Top Gun, he'd like to hear from you.

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