You clicked on the link. Now are you gonna read this almost 1,000 word op-ed about how time is spent or, in some twist of irony, just skim it? I mean, who has the time?
I never watched baseball or played in an organized league when I was young. The biggest reason was that my father didn’t those things either. “It’s an un-timed sport. It’s boring,” he’d say. And right out of the gate, my connection to America’s pastime was limited. As an adult, I learned to enjoy and appreciate the game. So I find it interesting now to hear all the hubbub about changing baseball to make it more appealing. You might think I’d be excited about the idea of speeding up the game – The idea of pitch clocks and such. But on the contrary, I think it’s a horrible and flawed idea, both on the implementation and conceptual fronts.
First, there is no good way to make it happen. Games aren’t longer because of play, but because of money. Television rights have created great revenues for teams and allowed for higher player contracts. But television is fueled by advertising, which means commercial breaks, which in turn means longer game times. Every sport is suffering from this currently. Check that. Every sports fan is suffering from this currently. Teams and players prosper, but the experience and game play is jerkier than a 15-year-old learning to drive stick shift, and it grinds everybody’s gears. The average game time has increased, but the rules of the game have basically gone unchanged. Strategy has changed, in terms of the amount of pitching changes perhaps, but that has only increase game time because every time the skipper starts playing match-ups and calls for the righty, you have to watch commercials about lite beers, heavyweight bacon wrapped ‘cuisine’, and endless supplies of prescription medications with endless lists of side effects. And after a 3-pitch, inning ending groundball at bat, it’s back to another commercial break. More ads, less baseball.
So, let’s stop pretending that making David Ortiz stay in the batter’s box and making Clay Buchholz throw a pitch within a lunar cycle is going to make the game faster. Limiting throws to first base or other quirky rule additions won’t add to the game or make it conclude quicker. I’m not a purist. But, it’s also Baseball. Part of the appeal is that it is a game that has been relatively unchanged for centuries, providing a link to it’s past. It has different eras, but I can compare players and teams from 1965 with teams presumably 2065. It’s Baseball.
And while I could go on about how I learned that it’s not a boring game if you understand it’s intricacies of situational play (what to look for on a 3-1 count, the battle of pitcher and batter, the poker faced pacing of a base stealer at first) or have an interest in the mountains of minutiae embedded in baseball statistics (He’s batting .300 against lefties born in Kansas during day games on the road… in ball parks built after 1995…), I’ll focus on what I think is a bigger societal issue. What’s the f%^@ing rush?
I have been listening my whole life about the wonders of technology and invention and how much time they would save as all. Yet I see a multitude of people who either have or at least perceive to have live that are extremely busy. Having a device in your pocket that allows you to email, and internet research, and text, and perform the archaic activity know as “calling someone” has not led to productivity increase or more ‘free time.’ And it never will. Science has dispelled the myth of ‘multi-tasking’ and employers ask more from you without additional compensation. The majority want things faster, faster, and more of it. And for what purpose, considering that everyone should have more time to wait with all these efficiency-enabling devices? Shouldn’t we all have more time now to enjoy something, say, like a slightly longer baseball game?
Baseball doesn’t need to change. I think we’d be better served and take the advice Aaron Rogers gave to Packers fans and relax. Baseball is actually often referred to as the National Pastime – As in, something to pass the time. We are continually losing perspective on what the purpose of sport really should be. It’s a distraction. It’s enjoyment. It can teach life lessons. And all that downtime in Baseball provides another opportunity: to have actual human interaction.
I’m not talking about live tweeting about what you think the pitcher should have done, or posting a snarky opinion about your team’s throwback jerseys. I’m talking about finding out about what your father or your best friend has been up to. Finding out what your mother thought about the last election. Debating whether it’s better to bunt and move the runner or pinch-hitting. Baseball provides air to breath, moments to ponder, and hell, even a chance to multi-task. You can fish and listen to the game on the radio. You can even get caught up on some work, if you must.
Instead of continuing to feed the consumer driven culture of more and faster, leave baseball as it is and let it be a tool in the toolbox of teaching an appreciation of patience and pastime. Seven minute shorter games won’t increase interest in young people. It’s a farce that young people are only interested in fast-paced, loud, and shiny content, like some small-minded raccoon and believing it only contributes to the problem. The money being made on longer games will ensure the increased length. So instead of trying to change the game, take the time to teach a person the game. Appreciate the space the game provides for interaction. Crack a beverage. Put your feet up or put the radio on and rake the lawn. Have a past time.