By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA
What’s happening to America’s pastime? People just aren’t watching as much baseball – the numbers don’t lie. An average of 14.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the San Francisco Giants play the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series and 106.5 million watched the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl that same year. You could bring a number of different arguments to this statistic – Hurricane Katrina and the country’s interest in watching the Saints win it for their city being the most obvious, but the fact is not even a hurricane can account for about 7.5 times more viewers than the World Series. Baseball’s popularity is on the slide.
Take Boston for example; when the Sox won the World Series in ’07 they topped Major League Baseball’s local broadcasting ratings – last year their ratings were half that number. I’ll admit it: Last year the Sox were boring. Of course they didn’t have the ratings of ’07, they finished third in the AL East and the team we ended up watching was the Pawtucket Red Sox featuring Adrien Beltre. Injuries aside the Red Sox just didn’t have the excitement, the “swagger,” if you will, that they’ve had in previous seasons. Last year there was no confidence and no intensity from the guys that we always expect it from. I’m looking at you Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon. What happened to Badass Beckett? I want the guy who yelled at players, umpires, and managers alike, the guy who would throw a punch or drill a guy in the ribs with a fastball and not care – not Boringass Beckett with his bad back and pouty face.
Epstein, I think, gets it — he’s smart (although if you ask Buck Showalter he’ll tell you otherwise – get back to me when you’ve got a ring, bro) and he knows that by signing Gonzalez and Crawford he’s created one of the most anticipated Sox line-ups in a long time. But he’s got competition in both the Celtics and the Bruins and it comes down to this question: Did people just lose interest in last year’s Sox or are people losing interest in baseball as a whole?
We live in a fast-paced, instant gratification, capture your life in 140 characters or less society and baseball doesn’t fit in. There’s no quick up-and-down the court or ice action, nobody’s getting “jacked up,” and there’s no clock ticking away in the corner telling you how long before you’re on to the next thing. Baseball is slow, methodical, and to watch it takes a certain amount of patience. To be honest I think we’re moving away from it as a culture. The number of people who’ve told me that they won’t watch an entire baseball game, they only watch the highlights the next day, saddens me. Is baseball only exciting if you see all the great plays condensed into 5 minutes on the latest edition of Web Gems? I’d say no, because I think a Web Gem is much more gratifying if you’ve waited 2 hours and 8 innings for it instead of just from the top of the hour. The excitement lies in the anticipation of the great play. Baseball invites you to stretch out, take off your shoes, stay awhile; it’s summer where are you going so quickly anyway? In the words of Dustin Pedroia – relax. I like that about baseball. Chill out America, maybe turn off your CrackBerry and try to pay attention to something for longer than 15 minutes – this is our pastime we’re talking about.