By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When is the right time to panic?

And when is the right time to start believing?

I guess the answer to both those questions depends on where your team happens to be in the standings.

If you expected your favorite baseball team to be five games up already and they're five back, now might be a good time to start panicking.

On the flip side, if you expected your team to stink, and instead they have a two-game lead in the division and the starting pitching is holding up, maybe, just maybe, you can start to believe.

It's the whole optimist-versus-pessimist, glass-is-half-full, glass-is-half- empty kind of deal.

Baseball, with its marathon 162-game schedule, weeds out the pretenders and, for the most part, gives the contenders enough time to right things.

For fans, though, that logic doesn't apply.

Fans, short for fanatics, live day to day with their teams.

A bad loss on Monday followed by another on Tuesday, well, that can mean just one thing: it's time for the manager to go.

And while you'll drive yourself crazy with that approach, it's just another thing that makes baseball such a wonderful game. You can live to play another day in baseball and you always want to believe.

It's just the opposite in football, where, in essence, every game is the equivalent of a 10-game block in baseball. Sixteen games versus 162, if you catch my drift.

Trying to equate losing two straight football games to 20 straight baseball games seems odd, but it's about right if you're willing to stretch your imagination.

Lose two straight and the best you can be, if you're perfect the rest of the way, is 14-2 in the NFL.

Win 10 games and the odds are pretty good you'll make the playoffs. Win the equivalent of 100 baseball games and you'll win your division.

The math is not perfect, and the numbers don't all line up, but we're in the ballpark, so to speak.

But let's get back to our main point. When is it time to panic or believe? Baseball gives us plenty of options.

Some will say that after 50 games you'll have a pretty good idea of where your team stands.

Others use Memorial Day as their line of demarcation.

Perhaps the most popular is the Fourth of July.

By then, all teams have played around 90 games and by that time the leopard has shown its stripes.

Today is May 10. They're still playing playoff hockey (do they ever actually stop playing hockey?) and they're still playing playoff basketball. Heck, they'll be doing those things for another month.

And that's the point, while 30 to 35 games in (about where most teams are) has a nice ring to it, it's not enough time to separate the good from the not so good. The boys from the men, etc.

What day do I use? I thought you'd never ask.

I always go with Aug. 1. We're past the All-Star Game, any major injuries that happened early on, like the San Francsico Giants losing closer Brian Wilson, have already been factored in and accounted for, and well over 100 games have been played.

Of course, we have the new wrinkle of another wild card team getting into the postseason in each league, something I don't care for in the least, but they didn't ask me.

Now, if my team needs to win its last game to grab that last wild-card spot, might I change my tune about not liking it? Sadly, yes.

But, back to what we said earlier, accepting things you don't like on the surface at one point that ends up helping your team later is what makes us fans.

We don't care how we get in, we just want to get in.

That's why, ultimately, I guess, it's never too early to panic and it's never too late to believe.

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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