It’s boring. There’s not enough action. The games take too long. These are all common complaints made against baseball. And while they all may be true, I look at it a different way by saying…… you don’t have to like the game in order to love it. Here’s why……….
For instance, take the claim that there is not enough action in baseball. That depends on what your definition of action is. People say that football has all kinds of “action”. Really? Football has just 60 minutes of action and yet it takes three hours to televise a game. And tell me how much of that sixty minutes of action is spent with the clock running while teams huddle and gather themselves following a run from scrimmage. I would wager that when all is said and done, there is no more than 30 minutes that the ball is actually in play during a typical game.
Other sports – as televised- that’s the key thing to remember – have the same problem. For instance, the final two minutes of a NBA game can seem endless with time outs that come back to back often within seconds of another. And God forbid there’s overtime and another batch of time outs given to each team.
My point is this. You can grow to love baseball without having to like it if you take the time to study its nuances. Tiny little nuances, each of which becomes part of the whole to form a symmetry unmatched in any other sport………..and the reason this is possible in baseball is precisely because it is a slow pastoral game.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece titled The Rituals Of Baseball in which I attempt to identify many of these nuances that can make visiting a Ballpark more enjoyable for everyone. Beyond those rituals, other facets of the game can come to life especially when it appears that not much else is going on.
Again, it depends on your definition of action. Observing pitch sequences to different batters and watching the location of those pitches can be “action”. In the same vein, watching how the defense shifts for each hitter is actually a game played within the game. Or, instead of watching the ball in flight, observe how infielders move and line up for a cutoff position.
Finally, there’s the casual pleasure of pouring through the boxscores from the previous night checking to see who’s hot and who’s not. Or taking a peek at the video highlights on MLB AtBat.
Look, football is the most popular and most watched sport in America today. I get that. It carries with it the lure of violence (a as reflected in our culture today) as the crunching sounds of helmets smashing together is picked up by overhead microphone. Later, the concussed player is ignored as he lies still on the field and we hear the familiar refrain “We’ll be right back after this”. These moments are not nuances. They are bold in your face events that are glorified and endlessly replayed on ESPN for days. Moreover, a study released today of former player’s brains after death reveals that 86% suffered permanent and irreversible brain damage during their years of playing football. Go figure.
Not for me. Give me the slow non-violent pace of baseball any day and every day. But then again, I not only love it – I like it. Finally, the author’s disclosure………I have not watched a single ballgame from start to finish this year on TV. Raise your hand if you have……