With the diamond Hogs in the College World Series last week, Fayetteville was buzzing about baseball, and it was kinda weird. Personally, baseball is my favorite sport, but honestly, I don’t keep up with the diamond Hogs the way I do with the football and basketball teams. I try to go to a couple games a year, and enjoy keeping up with them casually through the evening news, but I couldn’t name the starting rotation, or who is missing time due to injury. After basketball season, my attention turns away from the Razorbacks and to MLB and doesn’t waver until mid-August. I don’t feel this is just me either. It seems that Fayetteville, in general, is less interested in Hog baseball than football and basketball.
But since we made it to the World Series, things changed. The results of the baseball games were the opening story on the evening news and people that I know who don’t give a care about baseball were approaching me about what was going on.
All this lead me to wonder how Fayetteville would have reacted to the Hogs winning the World Series.
I did not live here in 94′, but I have heard stories about the Razorbacks winning the NCAA basketball tournament. Usually, people tell me they were pretty young when it happened, but that they remember Fayetteville going nuts. Dickson Street had to be blocked off and the town was pretty much a giant party. I haven’t talked to anyone who was around when the Hogs won the national championship in football in 1964, but I can imagine that it was a huge deal. Probably not as big a deal as it would be today with all the added media coverage of college sports, etc. I am pretty sure that if the Hogs won a national championship in football this town would have to shut down. Mayhem would ensue. It might actually get scary around here. It would be great.
But what if we had won the College World Series? Would the town have gone nuts, or would it have been something people got excited about and talked about for a couple days, and that would have been that? Honestly, I would be more inclined to go with the latter rather than the former, and I have a couple theories of why.
1. People in this area just don’t like baseball that much. This seems the most plausible to me. Certain areas of the nation seem more inclined to enjoy certain sports more than others. I grew up in St. Louis, and it was all Cardinals (baseball), all the time. Even though we had the Blues (hockey) and the other Cardinals (football, who eventually moved to Arizona, if that tells you anything), baseball ruled all. Even in the off season. Fayetteville just seems to be a football town, with a serious interest in basketball.
2. There are way more baseball games than football or basketball games. Not including the postseason, there are about 55 baseball games, 30 basketball games, and 12 football games in each respective season. With fewer games comes added intrigue with getting a win because you have fewer chances to make up for your losses. If a baseball team wins or loses one game, people are less likely to have a strong reaction opposed to a win or loss associated with the football team. With basketball and football, there is just more at stake game in, game out. Additionally, fewer games leads to fewer opportunities to watch games which demands more attention from fans if they want to catch one.
3. No one knows the rules of the baseball postseason. Okay, for baseball, first there is a regional with four teams, then a super regional with two teams, then a World Series with eight teams split into two different brackets, and they are all double elimination. What? This system makes sense, but it takes a little effort on the part of the fan to figure it out. Because of this, most people don’t know what is going on in the baseball postseason, so most don’t realize what is at stake during the game. In basketball, there are sweet brackets and office pools that get even casual basketball fans interested in what is going on. In football, you play one team. You win, you are the champs, you lose, you are not. Easy.
4. Baseball games aren’t on TV. It is very rare to see a Hog baseball game on TV, and when you do, it is usually on some obscure channel that only bars have. Added TV exposure would help build excitement for the baseball team.
5. The students are gone. Students create a lot of excitement about Hog sports. Not to mention, when they are gone, there are that many fewer people around talking about the Hogs.
I am not saying people wouldn’t have been pumped about the Razorbacks winning the World Series, on the contrary, I know people would have been very excited. I just don’t think the reaction would have reached the magnitude of a football or basketball championship, but I do feel the reaction would have been larger than the reaction from winning track championships. Seriously, we have won five indoor track competitions in the last ten years and I have no memories of any of it, just that we always have an awesome track team.
So, what do you think? Would Fayetteville have gone nuts if we had pulled off an improbable victory in Omaha, or is baseball just a diversion until the start of football season?
Trip Jones is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He is a graduate student in the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. For more of Trip’s contributions, visit his author page.