Slow Down Rangers’ Fans
I am sincerely distracted. The iPhone in my pocket is vibrating, I have the Barcelona versus Atlético Madrid match on my left, the second round of the Masters on my right, music in the background, a hundred conversations going on around me in the middle of the lunch crowd, notifications are pinging on my laptop, my job responsibilities are two swipes to the right, and I am trying to write this article. I wonder why it’s slow going … when, in fact, I just had to answer an “urgent” email.
In 2013, the Huffington Post wrote a brief piece warning against our waning attention spans given technological advancements, and an even more interesting tidbit from Time last year clocked human attention span as just shy of a goldfish, highlighting “an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.” At the same time, last July, Adam Sobsey (of the now defunct Grantland) penned a comprehensive tome on the ramifications of speeding up baseball.
It would be far easier to decry this new reality or make this article a belly-aching commentary highlighting generational differences while touting the purity of the old-school game as I remember it. (By the way, hockey has now replaced the soccer match in front of me.) Or this could also devolve into a comparative piece on how baseball is not any slower than football, which happens to be true. However, that’s not really the point.
Baseball just happens to be the perfect antidote to a distracted world. (And I realize at this point, I have about 750 more words to convince you before you lose focus … so here goes.)
It’s slow. Yeah, I said it. The thing is, though, I like it that way. What is better for people who no longer take the time to think, to process, to discuss, to analyze, and to reminisce than a game that allows one do all three? Last season the average game length was 2 hours and 52 minutes while the average cost of attending a baseball game was $39 per person. So, basically for $13 per hour I get to sit outside, have a meal, drink a beer, and watch one of America’s favorite pastimes.
Baseball helps carve out time in peoples’ lives to talk, to interact, and to enjoy one another. My wife, who is not a sports fan, enjoys going to games with me because she knows I love it and she also knows that we’ll be able to talk and laugh and joke together. Although my dad and I can sometimes find it difficult to relate in certain areas of life, we are able to sit down together over nine innings and delve into our shared love of the game.
Whether the game speeds up or slows down by 10 minutes, then, is of little consequence to me. It’s time (and money) well spent. It’s time I get to spend not in front of a computer, TV, or phone screen. It’s time spent with people that gives us a chance to talk, eat, drink, and enjoy being outside (the domes be damned; I’d rather sweat!).
It’s difficult. In one of the opening scenes of Ken Burns’ Baseball a famous sports’ personality (I can’t remember who) remarks that while baseball looks like anyone could play it, the fact is it is one of the most difficult sports to master. It says a lot when a superstar for the sport is successful hitting the ball 30% of the time. There is chess-like depth and strategy to baseball that belies its simplistic façade.
Furthermore, what most people do not even realize is that the 50 men who comprise the two teams playing on the field are lucky to even be there. According to the Huffington Post’s Emily Cornelius (@EmilyTheFirst), only 1 of every 200 high school seniors will ever be drafted into Major League Baseball, and of those who are drafted, only 7% of them will ever actually play in the Big Show. It brings a certain gravitas and respect to the game.
It’s communal. Baseball is communal as a sport. It takes nine guys in the same jersey to make it happen. At the same time, it is highly individualistic when viewed through the lens of the chess match being played between two managers, a catcher and a pitcher, and a pitcher and a batter, despite being within a context of 20,000 frenzied fans.
It’s communal in an international sense. According to 2015 statistics, over one-quarter of MLB players were born outside of the U.S., and 17 countries around the world are represented in baseball. (In fact, our own Texas Rangers have had the most foreign-born players on their roster two seasons in a row.) Baseball is communal on an international level and has become a phenomenon in both Latin America and Asia.
It’s communal in a historical sense. I grew up with a love for the game watching with my grandparents. Spending my summers in metro Detroit as well as northern Michigan, I cut my teeth on the Detroit Tigers of the late 1980’s but went to bed with stories of Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash, and Al Kaline (from the 1950’s-60’s). Baseball seems to span generations, whether or not one played the game or not. Four bases, three balls, two strikes, but always one game. Old or young, everyone can enjoy the game equally as much.
So, as the 2016-17 baseball season begins, take a step back for a moment. Before we all begin to complain about our local front offices, call for the heads of our closers who have already blown games, and crucify our hitters for not living up to their contractual dollars versus performance, maybe we can just try and enjoy the game for more than one opening night.
Perhaps we can slow down and turn off our phones for a few hours, invite some friends out (along with a call to Uber), and enjoy our national pastime together. Maybe we can appreciate the sacrifices that the men and women, both in between and outside the lines of the game, have made to make this a unique experience for all of us. Hopefully, we can gather our families together and share some memories that could, if we’re lucky, be passed down to the next generation of baseball fans (or “fanatics” if you prefer @thesamuelhale).
In the midst of all the needless, ridiculous distractions of life, perhaps baseball could be the best and most welcome one of all this year.