THE BALLAD OF EAST AND WEST

October 16, 2011

When Albert Pujols complained about the late-afternoon starting time of Game 3 of the Cardinals' NL Division Series against the Phillies, he implied that the Cards had been relegated to battling the difficult mixture of sun and shadow in St. Louis because they aren't one of baseball's East Coast--based royal families. "Maybe if we were the New York Yankees," the three-time MVP said, "we would have played an 8 p.m. game today."

Pujols was courageously speaking out against preferential treatment. Or he was petulantly whining about imaginary injustice. I have a hard time making up my mind. Having spent most of the first half of my life in and around New York City and the second half living in California, I've had a long-running internal debate about whether the concept of East Coast bias is myth or reality. It's as though my Atlantic self is on one shoulder, my Pacific one on the other, and they're arguing it out. In fact, they're starting up all over again... .

West Coast Me

Yankees and Red Sox. Need I offer any further evidence of East Coast bias? Yankees and Red Sox. It's like New York--Boston games are playing on a continuous loop. Yankees and Red Sox. They're on the tube more often than Friends reruns. Yankees and Red Sox. Three of their 18 games this season were televised on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball—and that's not counting the four other times one of them appeared against other teams. Meanwhile, the World Series champion Giants appeared three times. Yankees and Red Sox. Tell me, do you find it annoying and repetitive to see Yankees and Red Sox in every other sentence, East Coast Me? Now you know how the rest of the country feels.

East Coast Me

I got your East Coast bias right here, pal. Is it the Sox' and Yanks' fault that they have national followings, or that many of the most populated cities are in the East, or that TV ratings are at their highest when the two play? Besides, television networks do all kinds of favors for you West Coast types. Don't tell me you forgot what it was like when you lived in the East and Monday Night Football started at 9 p.m. You practically had to punch yourself in the face every five minutes to stay awake through the fourth quarter. Now you're on Pacific time, where the game ends by a reasonable hour and you still have time for a Chardonnay and a soak in the hot tub, or whatever it is you people do out there.

West Coast Me

I prefer a nice Merlot, and I'm surprised you're aware that there is a Pacific time zone, since it usually seems like the sports world has its clock set to Eastern time. You East Coast fans probably never think about this, but most national publications and websites list game schedules as though everyone lived east of the Great Lakes. I looked at NFL.com last week and it said the Bucs-49ers game in San Francisco started at 4:05. Not if you live in San Francisco, it didn't. It's a subtle thing, but it contributes to our feeling that if you don't live in the East, you're an afterthought.

East Coast Me

Ah, quit crying and just do the math. Speaking of which, everybody is crunching more numbers these days, which is why your East Coast bias theory doesn't add up. Last year Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia had eight more wins and scads more media attention than Felix Hernandez, who was 13--12 for last-place Seattle. But Hernandez won the AL Cy Young Award, easily, over Sabathia because voters considered King Felix's superior numbers in such categories as ERA, strikeouts and opponents' batting average. Hype, whether it comes from the East or the West, doesn't win you bubkes anymore. Algorithims don't play favorites.

West Coast Me

But they also can't easily erase outdated perceptions that have been decades in the making. You should get out more, East Coast Me. You probably still believe New York is the mecca of basketball because you've heard it said so often, but there's major talent coming out of Seattle and Dallas and Los Angeles these days, among other places. Is Madison Square Garden still the World's Most Famous Arena, as it has long been billed? It hasn't housed an NBA champion since the Nixon Administration.

East Coast Me

O.K., I'm willing to admit that there might have been a bit of bias, but it's nowhere near as strong as it once was. It's not like the old days when we ignored Western teams and athletes because they played their games while Eastern fans and media were asleep. If Heisman voters in the East want a good look at Stanford's Andrew Luck, his highlights are at their fingertips. College basketball fans from coast to coast knew all about BYU scoring machine Jimmer Fredette last season through the viral magic of the Internet—Jimmermania wasn't just a Western phenomenon.

West Coast Me

Fair enough, we can agree on that much. As for Pujols, at least he doesn't have to worry about the Cardinals being the victims of any bias for the rest of the postseason, not with the league championship series matchups of St. Louis--Milwaukee and Detroit-Texas.

East Coast Me

Not exactly glamour teams, are they?

West Coast Me

Nope. TV ratings might take a hit.

I have a feeling that if there were a Midwestern Me, he would argue that bias is bicoastal.

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WEST COAST ME IS TIRED OF RECALIBRATING TV SCHEDULES SET TO EASTERN CLOCKS. EAST COAST ME IS PLAIN TIRED: GAMES THAT START AT DINNER TIME IN THE WEST DRAG INTO THE WEE HOURS.

PHOTOJOHN BURGESS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)