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