“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” – The Steve Miller Band
So, did you see that great baseball game the other night? The American League wild card playoff between the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals?
Oh man, what a great ballgame! It was one of the best I’ve seen in years and well worth every minute of the nearly five hours I spent watching it.
Seriously, go check the box score (remember those?), at the bottom it indicates the game went 4:45, which surely feels like a lifetime to anyone who has a … well … life.
Now, understand one thing: I’m a middle-aged man, a child of the late 60s and early 70s. Born and raised in the suburbs. That makes me a part of the last real baseball generation; we grew up playing the game a few short years before soccer took over as the Saturday morning sport-of-choice for American children.
I grew up playing baseball in organized leagues with fathers who coached and families who sat in lawn chairs, cheering. When we weren’t playing in our official games, we played pickup games on school playgrounds and neighborhood lots. And when we weren’t doing that, we were watching Saturday afternoon and Monday night games on TV.
So, pardon the nostalgia, but I’m a baseball guy and I’m not interested in trying to “fix” the game by adding a shot-clock or shortening it to seven innings or fooling around with any other critical aspect of the game.
Notice, I didn’t say anything about shortening the time it takes to play a regular nine-inning game. On the contrary, I’m all for that. I’m also all for making the game more appealing for younger generations, who’ve turned away from the game because it has been billed as “boring.”
Want to make the game more interesting? More appealing? Want to cut it down from three hours-plus just to play a regular-season, nine-inning contest?
Easy. Convince the TV networks to do something about the number of commercials they show between innings and during pitching changes.
That’s causing the time problems in baseball, not the game itself.
It’s laughable to watch talking heads on ESPN, or any other network for that matter, debate ways in which Major League Baseball can fix itself. Those very networks have the meter running while the games are being played, charging advertisers for air time.
If the networks make the first move here, the sporting events will naturally follow.
As with every sport, the little nuances of each game are what make them interesting, at least to people who can think for themselves and have a reasonable chance of connecting a few dots. Whether its soccer, baseball, football, basketball or hockey, if you think the game is boring that probably says more about you than it does the sport itself.
Weirdly, baseball gets beaten up for being too boring and for taking three hours or more to complete a regulation game. And yet more college football games last at least that long or longer.
On Friday, when Utah State visits BYU for an ESPN-televised game in Provo, the action won’t even start until around 8:30 p.m. Fans hoping to be in bed before midnight had better tuck themselves in at halftime because the game itself will still be going.
The 8:30 p.m. start time isn’t optimal (thanks again to the networks) but the same thing would apply to a game with a 1 p.m. start time. It’ll still be at least a three hour commitment and don’t be fooled, just because football involves helmets and pads and more physical play doesn’t mean it’s more exciting.
Watch the fourth quarter of a 35-point blowout, when the clock stops after each incomplete pass, and tell me you’re having a blast.
Admittedly, game times can be shortened by enforcing a few key rules with regards to timing. Do that and then limit the time networks can show ads during game stoppages and you’ll see a difference.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo