Glass Maze Every jumbled pile of person

10 September 2007


The Problem With Baseball

I was watching baseball highlights on ESPN the other night when I had an epiphany.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. There are lots and lots of ways to waste the precious, fleeting, unrecoverable moments of your life, but watching a couple of snarky guys in suits spew tepid wisecracks over baseball replays is probably one of the worst. It’s about the equivalent of watching Golf Channel outtakes from The Great Cincinatti Putting Tournament of 1973, say, or a Fox News analysis of Barak Obama’s suspiciously terroristy-sounding last name. But if I’d done either of those things, I wouldn’t have had my epiphany.

Here’s my epiphany: highlights are killing baseball.

This is what a typical baseball highlight looks like:

  • Begin highlight. An overweight dude in a frumpy uniform is standing on a mound of dirt.
  • He grabs his crotch, looks intently at the catcher. He nods.
  • He throws the ball.
  • The batter hits the ball.
  • The camera follows the ball as it sails up into the air — a slow, slow rise into the sky. Sometimes you can see outfielders at the bottom of the screen, just sort of standing there, watching.
  • After a very long time, the ball disappears into the stands.
  • End highlight.

Take that sequence, repeat it five or six times (with slight variations in the uniforms and the corpulence of the pitcher), and you’ve pretty much got your typical major league baseball highlight reel.

You can see why they do this: the home run is the sine qua non of the game: it’s the best thing that can possibly happen, pretty much, and baseball’s dwindling corpus of fans pray ardently for it. But here’s the thing: from a purely mechanical, replay perspective, it’s probably the least exciting event on the field.

That’s not true of other sports: a good 50-yard hail-mary pass into the end zone is always fun to watch, no matter who you’re rooting for; long, arcing three-pointers are delicate and lovely and breathtaking, and penalty kicks have a queasy, exciting vertiginous quality to them.

But homeruns are just boring.

The annoying and tragic thing here is that there’s a lot to get excited about in baseball: shortstops diving for a hard grounders, clinch double-plays, runners sliding under tags.

Show us more of that stuff, snarky announcer people. Because there’s a name for sports that give us nothing but replays of tiny white balls dwindling into the horizon.



Posted by
12 September 2007 @ 11am

I couldn’t agree more, however the complexities of golf are easily lost on those that can’t grasp the challenge of reading the nuances of the landscape. To understand how nature, physics, and mental discipline need to coalesce into a perfect form to achieve the goal of making a putt is no easy task. Therefore, I can’t take offence at your golf reference … so you are forgiven.

Posted by
lapsed cannibal
12 September 2007 @ 6pm

zkaz … unfortunately my sensibilities have been so thorougly brutalized by years of watching football (that glorious hippo ballet) that there’s no way I’m ever going to appreciate those nuances … but you’re right, of course. Still, I don’t think it shows very well on TV, especially if you haven’t played the game yourself.

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