Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Tried Baseball, I Really Did

Apparently, these guys won the World Series last night.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

So, apparently an epic Game 7 of the World Series took place last night. I was, embarrassingly and honestly, completely unaware of that until I saw somebody post about it on Twitter as I was getting off work around 6 pm yesterday.

After work I had a flag football game that my team, also embarrassingly and honestly, lost by 35 points, but when I got home I decided I was going to give this supposedly awesome game a chance.

A little background on my relationship with baseball: I never liked baseball, despite it being one of my better sports. I would always bat third or fourth on my Little League teams (I was the fat kid with enough weight to hit for power) and I did enjoy trips to the batting cages. But playing the actual game? Ugh.

I remember one time the kids on my team got mad at me because I snuck a Gameboy into the dugout and played Pokemon while waiting for my turn to bat. I don't know what they were so mad about, it's not like we had any strategy to discuss (Don't worry guys, I will try to hit the ball, not let the ball go through my legs on defense and throw to first), and I found the concept of supporting my teammates in this largely individual sport to be pretty pointless.

Then I got to go out into the field, where the ball came to me roughly once every 33 1/3 innings. I think I tried to sneak my Gameboy out in my mitt but was caught by my coach.

In my defense, I had just evolved a Charmeleon into a Charizard, and I really wanted to try him out.

Back to baseball, a sport I do enjoy watching in person, mostly because you can drink beers, eat, hang out with your friends, and not have your conversations interrupted by consequential activities on the field.

It's a great way to spend a nice day outside. What I'm saying is, it's like getting brunch someplace with a patio.

But watching it at home, on television, when I have other viewing options... Are you crazy?

But hey, I'm a fair guy, so I'll give it a shot. After all, every time there's an exciting playoff baseball game on TV, all of my baseball fan friends repeatedly Tweet the same thing: "Who says baseball is boring."

My response, after trying to watch last night: "I do."

I first tuned into to see Eric Hosmer, of my high school alma mater American Heritage in Plantation, Florida, getting thrown out on the back-end of a double play. The replay clearly showed he was out. It was close, but, I mean, come on, he was out.

Two minutes and 57 seconds later, the umps finally came to the same conclusion that the rest of the world, and Joe Buck, had come to minutes prior. I then had to listen to Joe Buck complain about how slow baseball is and how terrible the replay system is.

If he doesn't want to watch, then why should I?

So I turned on the Bulls at the Knicks on ESPN and became enthralled watching former Miami Hurricane Shane Larkin battle Kirk Hinrich.

I didn't realize it, but I stayed on ESPN for about five minutes, until the next media timeout.

I switched back over to baseball and saw I missed a run. Damn it! Some guy with long hair from San Francisco (I later found out it was Michael Morse, a player from Ft. Lauderdale who married a girl I went to elementary, middle and high school with. Wow, apparently this game has a lot of South Florida connections) drove some other dude home, but the point is I missed it. The Royals then got out of the jam, which was great for their fans, but boring as hell for me.

I then turned back to ESPN and quickly fell back into the rhythm of basketball. Pass, cut, shot, miss, outlet pass, drive, pass, layup. Boom.

Stuff was happening.

The Bulls were putting on a passing clinic between recently returned Derrick Rose and recently acquired Pau Gasol. It was almost comforting to watch. That's when I realized I didn't even know the score.

As Taj Gibson threw down a cutting dunk off a beautiful pass, I saw the lead stretch to 20 points. Here I was, watching an opening night game with, effectively, nothing on the line, and it's turned into a blowout. Still, I didn't want to turn a tight Game 7 back on.

What gives?

Well, the natural flow of basketball was just so much more enjoyable, and the way it was packaged and produced seemed tighter. During downtime during the Bulls game, I was treated to Jeff Van Gundy discussing the intricacies of the Triangle Offense.

During the (ample) down time of the World Series game, I suffered through Joe Buck discussing… Whatever the hell it is he discusses. Seriously, does anybody enjoy listening to this guy? I also couldn't help but notice that I didn't  really know who anybody was, outside of Hosmer (again, I only know his story because we went to the same high school), on either World Series team.

 The fact that baseball has failed to make mainstream stars doesn't just hurt players when they try to land endorsement deals. The lack of transcendent figures and recongnizable characters also kills any chance of good storytelling.

Not saying baseball needs to go full-WWE, like many claim the NBA has done in the past, but if I'm not affiliated with either city or team, why the hell do I care who wins one way or the other? Sure, you could root for the underdogs from the small market, but that's boring.

In the NBA, I get to choose to love or hate LeBron, plus maybe I'm a fan of Kobe's sociopathic work ethic. In the NFL I can choose if I'm a Brady guy or a Manning guy. Heck, even coaches in the NFL make for better characters than these 2D baseball players I know nothing about.

Did they go to college? Does college baseball matter? What, were they drafted in like the 754th round, then spent 42 months in the minors before they got called up?

How the hell am I supposed to follow that career arc?

No wonder baseball has become a regional sport. People in Boston watch the Red Sox, and people in San Francisco watch the Giants, but nobody cares about the World Series if their team isn't playing in it. The one exception is the Yankees, who have a beautiful villain quality about them, but when they stink (as they have recently), baseball's only decent stories revolve around small-market teams succeeding by overcoming the stupidity of baseball as a whole.

While I was thinking about all this, I remembered that I should probably turn back on the winner-take-all championship game over the pointless blowout, so I flipped baseball back on... Just in time to see the replay of some dude from the Royals getting hit by a pitch.

Damn it, I missed another noteworthy play!

The inning then ended after a routine ground out and I looked at my clock, shocked to discover that 45 minutes had passed in the time it took to play just over an inning, and I didn't see anything remotely interesting while I was actually watching.

Now, part of that was my fault, I kept getting bored with baseball and switching the station, but should I really have to endure slow torture to enjoy a few minutes from a sport? This is supposed to be entertainment, after all.

With the 5th inning about to start, my DVR flashed saying that it was about to record South Park and American Horror Story, and that I would have to cancel one of my recordings to keep watching the game…

So, I read the conclusion on this morning. Sorry baseball, I tried. Maybe next year.

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