More for Your Money?

More for Your Money?

By Patrick F, Cannon

In 2020, the average Major League baseball game sucked three hours and 6 minutes out of a fan’s life. In 1915, the game was also nine innings long, but the average game took one hour and fifty three minutes. The average time has been increasing relentlessly – in 1940, two hours and 7 minutes; in 1970, it was two hours and 34 minutes; in 1990, two hours and fifty one.

If you go to a game, you can expect to devote most of the day to watching pitching changes; and batters who hitch, scratch and adjust their hitting gloves between each pitch. If you watch the game on television, you might have written the great American novel in the same time. Pitching changes are frequent and annoying. Here’s a statistic for you. In 1910, Walter Johnson pitched 36 complete games; in 2020, two pitchers shared the major league lead with two. And as if the pitchers have become too delicate, it has become common for position players to pitch in late innings when the game seems out of reach.

In football, the average NFL game consumes three hours and 10 minutes. Actual playing time remains at one hour. Teams can take three minutes of timeouts per game (injury timeouts are only charged if within two minutes of the half and end of game). The rest is taken up by official timeouts (read “commercials), challenges and other stuff. When I played high school football, games didn’t last more than two hours, including half time.

Then we have golf. In my experience, the average foursome of duffers will take four hours or less  to navigate 18 holes. On  the PGA tour, two golfers who would need far fewer strokes for those 18 holes, will often take 4-1/2 to over five hours to do the same. Here’s a typical scenario. After hitting a drive into the fairway, the golfer and his caddy will walk up to the ball and stare at it for several seconds.  Then the golfer will reach into his back pocket and retrieve a notebook, which will contain notes on that hole and its characteristics.

At the same time, the caddy will do the same thing, presumably with his own notes. Each, lost in his own thoughts, will look from the book to the remainder of the hole, then repeat this ritual another two or three times. Finally, they will look at each other and begin to compare notes. How many yards is it to this? How many to that? What is the state of the wind? What of the barometric pressure? What is the best club? Then, of course, we have the practice swings before deigning to actually hit the ball. When the ball finds the green, the process is repeated.

Of course, there are rules governing how long all this should take. Every once in a while, the commentators will inform the audience that this or that group has “been put on the clock.” I believe, humans being a perverse species, that the offending players then take even longer! Baseball also has rules about time. Since games get longer instead of shorter, they obviously aren’t enforced.  I am reminded of a friend of mine who was leading a group of French tourists. His words in English were relayed to the group through an interpreter. When he was giving the ground rules, he noticed that the interpreter wasn’t relaying them. He brought this to her attention, and was told: “You don’t tell adults what to do!”

Apparently, the same holds true for the modern athlete. What was once considered “bush” is now celebrated. Woe betide the coach or manager who can’t “relate” to the modern player. After all, it takes time to preen and hot dog.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

4 thoughts on “More for Your Money?

  1. Manfred and MLB have sucked the life out of professional baseball.

    When you get down to it, there isn’t much difference between a game that lasts two hours and 45 minutes and one that goes three hours, unless you sit in the stands with a stopwatch or are trying to fit a game into a TV grid. Baseball has no clock.

    And if games were lively and competitive, fans wouldn’t mind enjoying three hours of baseball.

    The problem is, MLB has allowed the game to reduce itself to a contest of strikeouts and home runs. The pace of games is dull, the announcers are duller. Even as games have dragged on with long replays of contested calls (adjudicated by a committee of lawyers, it seems), meaningless statistics, extended commercials, and waiting for pitcher and batter to get down to playing, MLB has attempted to shorten games with changes that are foreign to baseball: seven-inning double headers, unearned runner on second in extra innings, automatic intentional walks, und so weiter.

    What other business would try to sell its unappealing product to more fans by providing less of it? The dog won’t eat the dog food, so give him less??

    And charge more. The average ticket price in 2020 ranged from $52 in Baltimore to a whopping $167 in Boston. The Cubs charged $93.

    $93 buys a lot of Italian beef sandwiches. You could feed a family for days.

    But even if you forego games at the ballpark, you may need to pay beyond your cable or streaming subscription to watch on TV. That is, watch games that start at 800 pm and drag on into the night.

    “Good god, it’s only the top of the fourth!”

    Is there a better cure for insomnia?

    And if all this were somehow lacking in turning fans and TV sets off, MLB decides to go woke and take a partisan political stance on a state’s election laws. Excuse me? Isn’t MLB the outfit that selects its all-stars through “early and often” voting?

    In short, like so many things in our society — music, art, journalism, public education, Congress — MLB sucks.

    So this lifelong baseball fan has given up on it. Instead, I watch college baseball. The games are lively, the competition keen, the players motivated and the quality of play surprisingly high. Even the announcers are good. You never hear the phrase, “Baseball is a business.” And games are basically free.

    Are the games long?

    Who cares?

    Liked by 1 person

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