If I were to post a status for my relationship status with baseball on social media, it would be, "It's complicated."
Don't get me wrong. I love baseball, more than any other pro sport. My status with the NBA would read, "Broke up after Michael Jordan retired (the first time)." For football, it would read, "Some interest remains, despite horrible leadership." And for soccer it would read, "Call me when you get cheerleaders."
But I do love baseball. I love the fact that the game really hasn't changed that much since Babe Ruth was America's supreme athletic hero, swattin' home runs on the field and wooing women off:
Babe Ruth: Hey there, honeysuckle, aren't you the cat's pajamas! Waddya say you and me stroll down to the Automat and pick us up a hot hamburger sandwich?
Woman: (Faints with desire)
Male Passerby: The gentler sex, indeed! And they want to vote, haha!
(I'm going to stop now before Internet activists' heads start exploding.)
While the pickup lines have changed, what makes a baseball hero a baseball hero really hasn't: Knocking a ball over the fence or making a diving catch will earn you the adoration of thousands of fans, the same now as it did back when boys were working up the nerve to ask that pretty girl next door to go for a ride in that new fangled horseless carriage.
I think this is what a lot of people really love about baseball, that when they're watching a game today, hearing the crack of a wooden bat and watching elite athletes elegantly execute movements demanded only by the game of baseball, that they're witnessing something timeless. Change the style of the helmets and the cleats, and you could easily be watching a game from decades past.
But baseball has changed in some ways, and it's working against one of the main ways fans have changed: shortened attention spans.
As a self-confessed Millennial myself, I roll my eyes at old people haranguing young 'uns for their inability to go 10 seconds without looking at their phones, mostly because those old people are a big reason I haven't been on Facebook in a couple years. (Do they even still have the "It's complicated" relationship status on Facebook? I'm so out of touch, I might as well barricade myself in a log cabin and shoo away the squirrels that were trained to spy on me by the government.)
It's true, though, that our attention spans are probably shorter now than they've ever been. Can you imagine a young Pioneer boy, who's used to playing with nothing but a corn husk doll and a loose tooth, getting bored at an MLB game? He'd be overwhelmed with all the wondrous sights, sounds and smells, that he wouldn't need, much less want, anything else to distract him, like a smartphone.
Even though I think smart phones have deeply harmed our society in a lot of ways (Ever seen parents take their kids to McDonald's or a park, only to keep their heads buried in their phones?), I struggle with my attention span, too. For instance, I couldn't finish writing the first rough draft of this post without stopping to play some Galaga on my laptop. (I tried Pac-Man, but that requires thinking and strategy. BORING!)
Speaking of paying attention, do you remember what this post was supposed to be about? Because I sure as hell don't!
Actually, upon further review, I believe it's supposed to be about how baseball is working against the shorter attention spans of modern day fans.
Now I know MLB has kicked around the idea of making the game quicker for a while now. I'm not going to discuss those here. I want to talk about the state of the game right now, how I think it could be improved some, and see if any of you
Scrotumites Scorumites have ideas on making it a little easier to keep in tune with.
For one thing, why are the breaks between innings so long? I mean, I know it's so MLB can get more ad revenue, but doesn't it feel unnecessarily long? How many times do these guys need to "loosen up"? It's basically a chance for grown men to stand around scratching their non-strikes and be unproductive. If men want to get paid to do that, they should do the honorable thing and run for congress.
Also, why are there so many pitching changes late in games? I hate it when there are multiple pitching changes in one inning. Would it be the end of the world if there were a rule limiting managers to one change per inning, with the exception of injuries?
If good ol' Babe Ruth used to regularly pitch double headers (and I'm not just talking about the time he took a weekend trip to the hot springs with the Siamese twins he stole away from the circus. Heyo!), can't we expect one of these high-dollar flamethrowers to finish one stinkin' inning?
And why do batters and pitchers need so long in between pitches? Does it take that much time for strategic analysis for the next pitch? I know baseball is supposedly is a "thinking man's game", but let's face it, a lot of these guys aren't gonna be on Jeopardy! any time soon.
MLB keeps toying with the idea of a pitch clock, "rolling it out in phases". By the time the pitch clock is implemented, most MLB fans won't care because we'll be too worried about deciding which of our family members will be colonizing Mars.
Pace of play initiatives, which is MLB's way of saying "We know some of you hate how long games take, so we're pretending to work on it", have been experimented with in the minor leagues. But it doesn't really seem clear that MLB will ever put things into action at the big show. Even in trying to make the games faster, MLB is extremely slow.
But I think I've ranted enough. My point is, instead of fighting over who's going to colonize Mars, we should just send every ESPN commentator. And if their ship goes slightly off track and heads straight for the sun, oh well. C'ést la vie!
Actually, my point is, I love baseball, and while I don't want it to fundamentally change and admit I still need to work on my own attention span, I think the league can still greatly improve its pace of the games.
What do you think? Do I need to get over it and let the game fold out the way the players and managers want? Or is the game really in need of an improvement?
Assemble, Scorumites, and let me hear your voices!