Baseball Is Boring for a Reason
March 24, 2016
by William Szczepanek
My usual retort when someone calls baseball boring is that it is a complex game and therefore you need to be intelligent to enjoy it. This is usually followed by laughter and the people I am speaking to then turn and walk away. It’s a pretty common notion that the game of baseball is boring and many people have felt that way for a long while. I do think that while the game has changed somewhat, especially lately, it has not kept pace with the changes in our culture. In fact, some of the rule changes have actually made the game a little less interesting.
The American culture has shifted dramatically over the last fifty years from one of a peaceful society to a more violent one. Video games and movies which are marketed to our interests are significantly more violent than in the past. Football has replaced baseball as the leading sport in the United States. I would not go so far as to call football the American Pastime because I don’t think that Americans spend enough time watching football and doing football-related activities to warrant it. Watching movies and playing video games may actually be closer to being the current American pastime, if Americans have enough free time to actually relax and do something pleasurable. Anyway, this article is about “boring”. Baseball may not be as boring as it is time consuming, and in a way people don’t really have as much time to devote to it as in the past.
I can watch a football game and not lose much of the excitement by recording the game and fast forwarding during huddles and commercials, which actually make up more than 2/3rds of a game. While I love watching football games this way I have not heard that many other people enjoy this method. It is possible to watch a recorded game in this manner in about one hour. This technique does not work with baseball since the action occurs at uneven intervals, so there is a lot of going back and forth and the flow of the game is lost, which actually makes the game more boring to watch this way.
Violence as an Attraction
People actually do enjoy the violence of football and while our senses have been dulled from so much violence in our lives, it is an important part of the game. If the violence were removed from football the game would soon disappear from the mainstream. With all of the costs related to brain damage, the NFL must continue to minimize its importance or risk losing viewers over rule changes to eliminate it.
Baseball has suffered with rule changes intended to minimize injury to players. Breakup slides at second base will soon be nonexistent. Many of the current injuries at second base are due to the fact that many, not all, second basemen and shortstops today do not pivot and jump like they once did to avoid the slide. I see many second basemen and shortstops with feet planted as they get hit by runners, rather than taking to the air and coming down on the runners with spikes. Old time players had ways of minimizing collisions.
Plays at home plate are now awful displays of missed swipe tags and rulings as to whether a catcher blocked the plate intentionally or not. One of the most exciting plays in baseball has been eliminated in an attempt to protect players, not just for the sake of their health, but for the sake of their salary. Injuries at home plate have always been dangerous. I can still remember taking a relay throw from left field and firing a strike to our catcher as the runner barreled in. Our catcher dropped the ball as the collision broke his collar bone. Today, because the runner does not know where the ball is heading and the catcher does not move from home plate but toward it, collisions are now less likely, but actually more dangerous when they do happen. All in all, it is a boring situation, but probably something we will continue to analyse.
Then we have the brush back pitches. While I do not condone throwing at batters, it was once a part of the game and batters back then were adept at avoiding inside pitches because they were more prepared for them. It is ironic that while today’s pitchers throw less frequently at batters than in the past, there are far more batters hit by pitches. Today, many batters will just stand in place and get hit by the pitch in order to get on base. This is a good strategy for getting on base, but what happened to the rule that a batter needed to make an effort to avoid getting hit? Purposely getting hit by a pitch is boring.
The most pressing reason why baseball is boring is that there are so many games. If there were only 16 games, like in football, the interest in a single game would be amplified tremendously. I now only watch basketball and hockey during the playoffs for this reason. But baseball is a marathon and while most of the excitement regarding results happens at the end of a season, there are a significant number of happenings during the year that can change the progression of a season, like injuries.
Yes, baseball is boring. But, it is that boring aspect that actually amplifies the excitement. A pitcher staring in at the batter with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth is the nail-biting kind of excitement that people once enjoyed. It is that heightened state of awareness that is living life to the fullest. In an age of multi-tasking nuttiness, in a time of intense, over stimulation that never seems to be adequate enough to satisfy, baseball is still there to pull us back to the simple pleasures of life, like taking the time to appreciate the beauty and fragrance of a flower, or to feel the heat of the sun on your face at the beach. Baseball heightens the senses by being boring at times. All season long baseball is there for you, day after day. You can depend on it. Yes, baseball is still boring and maybe that’s a good thing thing.
Now, many people think the same about collecting baseball cards.