I’ve lived in and around Boston my entire life. I grew up a Red Sox fan. I loved playing baseball and would have happily stayed on the field for a 19-inning, six-hour game like the one the Sox recently lost to the Angels. I have seen the local team win three World Series in a decade. I now produce a radio sports program. In other words, I now have every reason to watch MLB games — and lots of them. But I don’t. The average game is too boring, especially on television, and there are just too many humdrum undertakings over the span of any 162-game MLB regular season to change my viewing patterns.
And the games are simply too long. According to a recent USA Today blog by Ted Berg, the average length of a nine-inning game has increased from 2:55 in 2010 to 3:08 in 2014. Thirteen minutes may not sound like much, but when you consider that the extra time is largely comprised of pitchers refusing to expeditiously deliver the ball within the rules and delays for video review, then for me it becomes an “I’ll-Never-Get-That-Time-Back” proposition.
When New England Sports Network began condensing Red Sox games to two hours and rebroadcasting them, I rejoiced. At first the shortened, repackaged broadcasts seemed to fly by. But soon it was clear that there was still too much of what bored me: ponderous shots of fielders chewing and spitting, pitchers and catchers adjusting body parts, broadcast crews disposed to esoterica and self-promotion, slow-moving umpires and, worst of all, clinically OCD batters obsessively fidgeting over batting gloves and batting helmets and sleeves and cleats and dirt and bats and butterflies and the personal effects of every front row spectator. Three hours for that?!?!? No way. Two hours? Still no good!
Then I read this Wall Street Journal article and it made me wonder if MLB television broadcasters should be offering a more radically condensed, 18-minute version of baseball games. Perfect, right? I suppose intros, outros and ads would pad games out into nice, tidy television-friendly, 30-minute packages. However it’s done, I hope MLB’s new commissioner will make it a priority to come up with new rules and to enforce the ones already on the books. Baseball’s a wonderful game that can make for an exciting viewing experience. But, as currently constituted, it often resembles molasses flowing in February.
Watch this 30-second Bun-O-Vision version of ‘Caddyshack’ and, even if you love the full length movie, tell me that it’s not every bit as good as sitting through the entire 98 minutes of it. If this makes me an impatient, unfocused child of the information age, then so be it. But imagine what could be accomplished if baseball watchers were liberated from television screens for minutes, or hours, per game. If I’m given the opportunity to experience baseball games in 30 minutes, I’m sure that I’d enjoy the experience, and I’d be able to put the 2:38 I’d save to better use. For example, I’d be able to watch all the Bun-O-Vision movie reenactments and have plenty of time left over to read a book, take a walk or try to pry my kids away from Facebook and Instagram.