If you’re a smart enough person, you recognize that what happens between pitches is just as interesting as what happens during and after. Players and coaches read subtle signs from the batters, who adjust their positions carefully; batters spot these set ups and change their swing to counter them, and the whole thing is like 10-to-13-way chess. Secret signals go out from both benches, warning a fielder to expect a fly ball, and warning the batter not to swing at this next pitch.
Playing helps: if you played the game, you see all this stuff on the field or on television. The way a batter positions his feet tells you which way the ball will come, and you notice the third baseman creep a little closer in and you know why. It’s also fun looking at the pitch count and anticipating what type of pitch is likely to come the batter’s way.
Baseball, if you didn’t know, used to be insanely popular in the United States: kids raced home from (or skipped) school to play it in a field, moms and dads used to sneak out of work to watch a game. if not, you certainly listened on the radio or watched television to learn what the legends of the day were doing against each other. People talked about games like they talked about a family brawl: you remember that time when…? Baseball was inescapable.
It’s starting to come back, although very slowly. Over-commercialization killed baseball in the 1970s and 1980s, and player scandals and monstrous mismanagement in the 1990s and 2000s reduced the game’s popularity further. But little by little, as America feels itself disconnected from its politics and its religions—and as basketball and football lose fans to the same issues—baseball’s popularity is going back up.
Many folks disagree: attendance at games is still way down, but that’s hardly a surprise when a last-place team is charging outrageous prices for parking, behind-column seating, and low-grade food. Even a moderately cold, rapidly poured domestic beer can run you $9, especially with a chunk of that going to the local city tax collector.
Also, viewership is way down on television, but that is accounting for the millions who still listen in the background on radio while doing yardwork or the trendy kids we see watching the game in a web browser. Still and all, there is a possible culprit in how baseball is telecast.
The best games, without question, is watching your favorite team on a local television channel, presented by people who know the game and know the team. To put it another way, one of the things that makes baseball awfully boring are national broadcasts.
ESPN is the worst; their utter disdain for the game of baseball positively drips. Announces who never played the game stall for time by reading meaningless statistics about players they don’t know at all. Consider:
Local Play-by-Player: Walker throws in, low and inside. Homer looked at it, but expected the breaking ball.
Local Color Commentator: That’s right, Glen. It’s 3-1, and Walker knew Homer would want to swing away with only one strike on him. I’d expect a fast ball here, hoping to trick him. Hey, that kid in the upper deck just threw up over the railing! Can we get a camera on the folks sitting below?
ESPN Play-by-Player: Walker delivers a 101-mile-an-hour pitch. Homer takes it as a ball, which is the 4th time he’s done so today. This season, he’s batting only .103 in a 2-1 count, versus last season where he was over .264.
ESPN Color Commentator: That’s right, Glen. I spoke to Walker last time he pitched, and he remarked that the great Ed Fornsby, who last played in 1911, met his father at a breakfast place in Gondor, Tennessee, where he always ordered the eggs over easy. Fornsby learned from his dad that consistency makes for better pitching, which is why the late, great Reddy Hemslow always ordered eggs no matter where he went.
The Czar knows that if you’ve listened to ESPN, Fox Sports, or NBC Sports in the last 10 years, you know that’s dead-on accurate. It’s the same crap on a continuous loop. No one cares. In every national game, you are guaranteed the following:
- Ridiculously uninteresting statistics that reveal nothing about the play.
- Little substantive explanation regarding strategy or tactics.
- Stories about the past that are uninteresting, unrelated, and little more than name-dropping to make the color commentator sound like he was there, man, in the trenches.
- Some bonehead gaffe that reveals the guys know jack about the teams. During last night’s Giants/Cubs game, the Fox Sports commentator did not know the difference between legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray and comedian/game show host Drew Carey. Seriously. Blowing basic trivia like this exposes you all as frauds and sickens the audience.
- Non-existent rivalries being amped up as the match of the century. Every game is presented as a Great Rivalry. Folks, there aren’t many in baseball. When Fox Sports, in particular, tries to convince us that the Rockies-Nationals game is a battle between these two great rivals, we shrug and change the channel. It’s awful salesmanship. Any baseball fan can rattle off the six or seven rivalries in baseball: we don’t need to be sold on the Yankees/Rays as a long-standing hatred.
- Mind-bogglingly weird start times that go way too late. Play to the home crowd and broadcast these games at a reasonable time. Kids in Orlando aren’t going to stay up until 3:00am to watch the Mariners play the Rays. Let the Mariners host the Rays at an afternoon game so both coasts can watch. It’s pretty simple, really.
- Endless delays and commercial breaks. A baseball game used to take two hours and change to play. They’re now stretched to over three with commercials, and the season stretches from March to November. Cut us all some slack. Breaks between half-innings should only be 1 minute at most to change sides, and lengthy time-outs for commercials need to be stopped. At most, if not all, baseball fields now, there’s a clock ticking down for the umpires visible to tell them how long to stretch out the time outs until the commercials end. Really. Oh, and go back to a mid-April-to-mid-October schedule.
Baseball isn’t intrinsically boring. It’s been transformed into a boring game by national networks who milked it to death. Let’s go back to local coverage, with the ability for non-local fans to watch around the globe via the internet. Without interruption at a nice pace. You know: exactly what the Czar recommends for the Olympics. National Networks are killing sports…especially ones they don’t like.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.