I love baseball as much as anyone. The playoffs? Of course, that’s the most exhilarating stage of them all. But this year, something went wrong and it’s not just that the Red Sox lost to the Rays in the A.L.C.S.
Once upon a time, when a baseball game in October took more than three hours to play, it was because it was the most exciting game of the year and everyone watched it, awash with anticipation for every pitch. Now, anytime a game is under three hours, it’s a miracle.
The lucrative television contracts and over-commercialization of the game make me wonder MLB commissioner Bud Selig was replaced by Ted Turner. It was one thing to have to watch a Blackberry commercial in between every half inning, but enough is enough.
When the commercials got longer and more drawn-out and games began lasting over four hours, it started to get out of hand. Not only have the games been excruciatingly long, but they have started especially late, too, in order to maximize ratings and capitalize on primetime television.
Unfortunately, by maximizing profits, baseball was losing out on one of its most important markets: the American youth. The next generation of baseball fans, especially on the East Coast, was largely unable to watch much of the World Series.
The weather has certainly played a large role in all of this, but it has not been the only factor. Take this past Saturday’s Game 3, for instance. Rain caused the start to be delayed until 10:06 p.m. which is too late to start a game on the East Coast to begin with but then, the game lasted for three hours and 41 minutes, ending at 1:47 a.m. on Sunday morning. Maybe if the game had gone into extra innings, maybe if the teams combined for 20 total runs, but a nine-inning, 5-4 game simply should never take that long, especially at that time of night.
The Red Sox vs. the Angels A.L.D.S. game on Sunday, Oct. 5 lasted for five hours and 19 minutes an A.L. playoff record. You can almost fly to Europe in that amount of time. The problem is, once you start watching, you can’t just give up and stop, but who the hell wants to watch a game for over five hours?
It’s a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, it’s the playoffs how could you not watch? But on the other hand, I can’t help but feel that we, the fans, are being taken advantage of because of our loyalty. One extra commercial during every break? OK, I can deal with that I do love baseball. But two more, three more commercials? Just how far will MLB push it?
The playoffs are the biggest event in baseball’s calendar, yet many people have been unable to watch games ending at midnight, 1 or almost 2 a.m.
With an untimed sport, there is always potential for a game to run especially long. Why then should the first few innings be artificially slowed to a crawl?
My whole life, I’ve argued with people who told me that they couldn’t watch baseball because it was too slow and not exciting enough and, frankly, I’m now finding it hard to disagree.
This year’s playoffs have been chock-full of excitement and intrigue, but at what price? America’s pastime the game that has endured since the 19th century is selling itself out before our very own eyes, and many Americans haven’t even been able to watch it.
I wonder how long it will be until uniforms are full of advertisements as well: it’s the Geico Philadelphia Phillies against the EA Sports Tampa Bay Rays in the ExxonMobil World Series during the MLB playoffs sponsored by Blackberry on TBS. I certainly hope my fear never manifests into reality, but it sure seems imminent.
Congratulations to the Phillies and Rays, let’s just hope that this wasn’t the last World Series without a sponsor.
And remember, vote on Tuesday!
Starr’s column appears weekly. Starr is a member of the class of 2009.