I know, I know. Football season just kicked off, and I’m writing an article on baseball. But a lot of people don’t pay attention to sports as much except when it’s football season. So I’m using football’s magnetism to advocate for the purity of baseball!
In my opinion, baseball is unnecessarily getting hammered by folks who want it to be more like football. No doubt baseball viewership has gone down. The average number of people watching a World Series game in the 1980s was over 30 million.
Since 2005, only three have pulled in over 18 million. And that number is made worse considering there are a lot more people in the world today with a lot more access to television. And no doubt its viewership pales in comparison to that of the NFL where regular-season Sunday games average close to 15 million viewers. But you know what? Pulling 18 million viewers is still pretty good. It’s just not NFL good.
So-called experts argue that baseball needs to speed up, that it needs more action and more competition. No doubt this is being driven by marketing and media folks who have no problem squeezing the heart and soul out of a thing, so long as it means more viewers even for just a little while.
I just read an article that suggested capping a batting team who was winning to only two outs. Others have suggested putting a clock on the pitcher. Every year someone has another bright idea on how to speed up the game. But you know what? Baseball isn’t football. It is baseball. And it has its own pace.
As a fan, when we go to a football game, the joy is in being fully engaged with our friends and fellow fans to a game full of quick plays. And it’s awesome. It really is.
But that’s not baseball. In baseball, it’s more about being engaged with our friends, family and fans, while watching a baseball game. As a fan, baseball is more about you and your fellow fans painting a picture together of what is going on in the field. Baseball is about subtleties. Sure, everyone can see when a home run is hit. But it’s harder to see the unspoken communication that goes on between a hitter and a batter. And the downtime that everyone wants to speed up, is what makes baseball magic for a fan.
Unlike most things today, it gives us time and space to enjoy the company around us. In an age where everyone wants to be engaged in something, and usually that something is on their smart phone, it’s a breath of fresh air to watch something that gives me some space.
I will say that football is my favorite sport. I played through high school and have coached six years of it with my son. I love every second of it.
But I’ve also coached 12 years of baseball for my sons and have learned to love it, too. Whereas playing football is about managing a razor-thin balance between hyped aggression and disciplined focus, baseball players need to be more tempered, the kind of temper that allows you to consistently throw a 95 mile an hour fastball 60 feet to within a tolerance of a couple inches. Or the kind that allows you to instinctively hit that same pitch. There is a rock-solid focus that goes into being able to do either.
Maybe we can accept that it will never be football. Maybe instead of focusing on making baseball more like football, we can focus on improving what makes baseball great. One thing I love about listening to the Braves on the radio is getting to hear the stories the old players tell in between pitches. Give me more of that. Give me more information about the players and how they relate to the opposing team. In this ever-expanding world we now live in, I think baseball is just fine. Maybe it’s us who have to slow down.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group