Though ABC was airing Game Two of the NBA finals on Sunday night with LeBron James facing Stephan Curry, I spent most of the time watching ESPN instead which had the women's NCAA softball World Series. Yes, it helped that the NBA game was a blow-out, but that wasn't clear until late in the third quarter. But that point, I'd been following Auburn vs. Florida State, and likely would have stuck with it even if the NBA game was closer. That's because it was a good, close game -- Florida State was down by three runs late, but hit a three-run HR to tie things, and it went into extra innings 7-7. I wasn't about to turn away from that. Florida State has the most appearances in the women's college World Series without winning -- and that standard is going to have to hold, since Auburn scored a run to win. Then I stuck around for the late game, which was Oklahoma-LSU.
As is probably clear by this, I like women's college softball. There's a different pace and strategy to it than with baseball. Lots of punching at the ball, and infield ground balls have a better chance of turning into hits, since the bases are much shorter. Also, men's college baseball is basically the same sport as the pros, but the quality -- while excellent -- is less, and there's a slower sense it. Slower pitching, slower running and such. Oddly, though the women's softball game isn't remotely on the same level as quality -- fielding is a bit shaky, by comparison, for example (in the Auburn-Florida State contest, the game was largely put away in the last inning when an Auburn single was misplayed by the FSU left fielder, and the ball bounced off her so far away that it allowed the batter to get to third base and ultimately score the winning run). But it's its own game, so you';re not comparing it to the major leagues. As a result, you appreciate it for its own sake.
What I also love is that the ballplayers, while skillful, also tend to serve as their own cheerleaders. It's always a hoot to what a team start to build a rally, and then the cameras will cut to the women in the dugout, and they're got their own choreographed cheer going on. You don't generally see that in the Major Leagues. Or men's college ball. Or pretty much anywhere else...
The one lacking is the broadcasting of the games. They're a bit limited in camera coverage -- it's okay, but not as full-fledged, and ESPN's announcers are not first tier. But they're lovers of the sports, and their appreciation tends to overcomes some humps.
They're nearing the last round, so most of the games are gone and done by this point, but there still a few more to go, and worth taking a look at, even if only for a few innings.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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