On Abe’s “Baseball, Time, and the Value of our Humanity”
A compliment to Abe Stein’s post “Baseball, Time, and the Value of our Humanity”, in which he suggests that we should welcome the length of baseball games, or at least agree that it’s not a threat to the game.
1) It’s important to acknowledge the relative brevity of games before the mid-90′s. For the majority of baseball’s history, a game longer than two hours was considered over-long.
2) The economic pressures nudging teams to longer games are huge. Related to #1 above, for about half its history — during an era when its attendees were made up of urban, adult, hourly-working men — baseball was a daytime sport. Games had to be short, if still pastoral in their aesthetic. But as the population changed through the 1960′s and the target market (and stadium locations) skewed more toward suburban families, a baseball game necessarily became an evening event, with a 7:35 pm (later 7:05 pm) game’s horizon stretching out toward midnight.
Meanwhile, while I haven’t heard an owner say it outright, a four-hour game is two more hours of concession stand sales and TV commercials. NFL owners, unable to lengthen games, do use that logic to try to lengthen the season. But unlike baseball players, football players have a lot to lose (their bodies, their minds) through more play.
None of that contradicts anything Abe says. In person, a four-hour game — with breaks between pitches, between innings, between action — is four hours I get to spend talking to my dad, my friends, my wife. Or, on TV or the radio, it’s church — a priest and a deacon reinterpreting the same stories for modern times, with familiar if distant characters that build, challenge, and reinforce our faith.