The World Series used to be the premier event on the annual sports calendar. It also used to be played during the daytime and people would watch it on black and white televisions. The Fall Classic may not carry the same prestige it used to (now third in the pecking order of most-watched championship events behind the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals), but it still delivers in terms of drama. In fact, the 2012 matchup of San Francisco and Detroit may well rate off the charts in that department, even if it doesn’t do much for Fox’s television ratings.
The Giants and Tigers bring with them to this series two of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Of course Detroit is led by Justin Verlander, who has been absolutely unhittable in October, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.74 ERA, 25 strikeouts and only five free passes in. With that kind of recent success, you’d think all anyone would be talking about is how San Francisco might possibly produce any offense off the preeminent southpaw in the sport.
Then you visit the website of the Motor City’s paper of record, the Detroit Free Press, and the first story under the Tigers thumbnail involves Verlander, but it isn’t a preview of the series. The banner headline reads: “Tigers’ Justin Verlander Neither Confirms Nor Denies He’s Dating Kate Upton.”
Now that’s the question I’m sure all Tigers fans are losing sleep over heading into tonight’s Game One.
Even better than the story’s topic, is the revelation of how reporters confirmed the story was true. They asked his 87-year-old grandfather, who confirmed by telephone to Celebuzz that Verlander and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Girl were in fact an item.
I only wish I was making this up.
Verlander took the high road and was in good spirits about the topic during an interview with USA Today on Tuesday, but you can’t imagine he is all that happy to have this topic raised at this particular moment in time.
“I'm not confirming or denying anything," Verlander said to the paper. "I'll leave that to my grandfather. God bless him." The story’s author did note that Verlander laughed about the topic and admitted that his teammates were even curious whether the story was true.
"I never thought I'd have to prepare my grandfather for the media," Verlander told USA TODAY Sports. "It's a whole different world. I can't believe that people would call my grandparents. It's tough when people start trying to dig into your personal life."
In terms of weird storylines entering Game One of the World Series, this has to be near the top. But it serves as another strong example of just how much the sports world has changed. The drama of the games simply is not enough anymore. An intriguing series does not satisfy the 24-hour news cycle’s appetite. And a network that paid billions of dollars to broadcast it is probably happy to have a pop culture phenom like Upton associated with the Fall Classic in any capacity.
Ted Williams must be spinning in his grave, while Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle are probably lying in theirs grateful the coverage was not this intense or intrusive in their day. If the story about who Verlander is dating draws this much attention, just imagine the kind of press some of that trio’s indiscretions or dating habits would have drawn.
Sometimes progress isn’t always a good thing.