It’s always a great relief to me when the baseball season starts. I’m not sure why since I’m a lifelong New York Mets fan, and just about every season plays out like a 162-act tragedy, with each painful disappointment more excruciating than the last. But I’ve long suspected that I’m a misery junky, so maybe it’s just nice to know where my next fix will be coming from.
I realize baseball is kind of an old-fogey sort of pastime. I understand that the games can be really long and may seem boring, but it’s relaxing to me to sit in front of a baseball game for a few hours. Maybe it connects me to lazy afternoons or evenings with my parents, who are also big Mets fans, or perhaps it’s because the statistical depth of the game appeals to this odd section of my otherwise flighty/dipshit brain that yearns to be able to have quantifiable proof that something is “good.” Like, I know a .300 hitter is good. I don’t know why that is, but it’s just proven that if you can fail seven out of ten times at trying to hit a baseball, that means you’re ridiculously good at it. That’s kind of cool, right?
Well, whatever, I think it is.
I also like that baseball feels perfect, for whatever it is, just the way it is. I like that if the weather’s bad, they have to delay or postpone a game if it’s raining, because really, who wants to sit out there when it’s all nasty and such? Someone might get hurt … or moistened. Either thing might ruin an otherwise pleasant day. I like that the pitcher stands on a mound of dirt that puts him slightly elevated from the rest of the players on the field. Why? I’m sure I can look it up, but somehow I think the answer would just spawn three more questions. I like that the playing fields are basically all the same in the infield, but teams can pretty much set their outfield fences however far from home plate that they want, because, why not? This park is a hitter’s park, this one’s a pitcher’s paradise, this one has a giant green wall in left field because it’s funny to watch outfielders lose their shit trying to figure out how to play the carom from a scorched line drive.
Still, every year Major League Baseball tries to change something to make the game more palatable to people who actually like high-octane sports entertainment experiences. That’s all well and good. The sport is well over a century old, and clearly it’s had to change with the times a lot to survive this long. But no matter what they do, baseball is never going to produce reliable, visceral thrills like a monster slam dunk or a bone-crushing sack of the quarterback. Recently, MLB has incorporated instant replay, which I’m pretty whatever about, and this year, since instant replay made already long games go even longer, they’ve decided to limit the amount of times coaches, managers and players can visit the pitcher on the mound. I know … scintillating stuff.
But more than that, MLB is also trying something new with how you can view the game. This year, they’ve signed a deal with Facebook, everyone’s favorite data mine, to broadcast 25 games this year. Of course, the first team to have to endure this experiment was my New York Mets in their April 4 game against the Philadelphia Phillies (the Mets won, by the way, no big).
This rankled people like my dad, who had absolutely no idea how to view something on Facebook (you needed to sign up for an account if you didn’t have one already to watch the game). I also didn’t watch it, because I had a feeling how it would go … Snarky internet commenters doing their thing, big dumb graphics, probably emojis, trolls. Basically all the things I watch baseball to avoid.
MLB on Facebook Watch got off to a great start, though, as the game was delayed by rain for over an hour and a half. Once it got started, though, the game garnered 4.3 million views, 1.1 million “reactions” (whatever the fuck that’s worth) and 68,000 comments, according to Forbes.com. Woo hoo! Stats! Like everything else on the internet, though, the broadcast wasn’t well received. Keith Olbermann tweeted that the broadcast was “LOL-bad,” which I guess is something people say. It’s been a while since I’ve been on Twitter. And I’ve been boycotting Facebook since before it was cool. I think what I’m saying is I’m a grumpy old man, and I want the internet off my outfield grass. If you’re a fan of the San Francisco Giants (I suppose they’re a team or whatever), their May 10 game against the Phillies (apparently Facebook has a boner for them) will be exclusively broadcast by the social media giant. Might be a good time to invest in a radio.
**This piece first appeared in print on page 34 of issue #263 (April 9 – 23, 2018)**