Baseball Marathons

Notes on the Passing Scene

So, when did watching a Major League Baseball game turn into a viewing marathon?

My teenage son is a big Red Sox fan, so I decided to sit down with him late Sunday night to catch the end of the Sox-Yankees game on ESPN. Honest to goodness, I tuned in for the 8th inning at 10:17 PM (ET) and that inning alone took around twenty-five minutes to complete … and there was only one baserunner! Dan Wheeler struck out the side for the Sox in the top of the 8th and just the half-inning took right at fifteen minutes (5 minutes a hitter?). The nine innings of regulation took over four hours to complete and then the game went to extra innings and – well, that was enough for me; I found another TV to watch the late HBO showings of Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm. A true fan, the kid hollered with pleasure when the BoSox won in the 10th well after midnight.

Over four hours for nine-inning games? Those are marathons.

You could watch a top-level runner complete a marathon quicker than you can watch an MLB game. You could actually watch two full marathons in the time it takes to play some regulation MLB games. You might have been able to watch Phidippides run the 25 miles from Marathon to Athens and announce victory over the Persians quicker than you could see a nine-inning game in the glacially slow American League. And the marathons might be more exciting that watching a guy step out after every pitch to tighten his batting gloves, adjust his helmet, look at a couple girls in the bleachers, check for signs, tap the dirt … you get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball and have since my boyhood team St. Louis whipped Boston in the ’67 World Series (you never saw Bob Gibson take three or four hours to pitch a game … he hardly went over two), but how can children or working people stay tuned for these marathons? It’s got to be hurting the game.

Welcome back to The Campus Game and sorry for the baseball rant. As we sweat through the dogs days of summer, those marathon baseball games make me long more than ever for college football’s kickoff.

National Treasure

Do the good folks up at Penn State not realize they have a national treasure that needs protecting?

The great Joe Paterno, whose face would adorn any Mt. Rushmore of college football, remains hospitalized as I write after getting run over during a Nittany Lion practice this past weekend. Good grief – where are the managers? I roomed with and knew a whole bunch of guys that worked as graduate assistants, team managers, trainers, and the like at Georgia and Tennessee and by gosh I don’t believe any one of them would have been so inattentive as to let the great man get stampeded. Wake up fellows and realize the guy is incomparable but not invincible!

The Joy of Long Blogs

Ever read Joe Posnanski or Peter King?

You probably do, and I think they are both terrific. One of the reasons I like them is because they write long (and I mean give yourself twenty minutes) blogs that are informative. King’s Monday Morning Quarterback at SI’s website is imperative reading for pro football fans, but everybody can get a lot out of it. I only started reading it a couple years ago and now rarely miss it. I don’t even drink coffee, but MMQB almost makes me want to find the nearest Starbucks. If you read MMQB you get the reference. You know a whole lot more about pro football and sports in general too.

Posnanski also writes for SI (not a coincidence I suppose), primarily – but not exclusively – about baseball and he’s probably my favorite guy to read right now. Among the many pleasures of the internet is having the world’s best newspapers, magazines, columnists, and essayists a click away.

Professor’s Bookcase

Speaking of lengthy, I finally got around to reading These Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.

It’s nearly 800 pages, and a compilation of interview excerpts that the authors (James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales) attempt to weave into a narrative about the origins and development of the media beast. When my buddies and I first learned of ESPN back around 1980 or so, we thought it was the greatest thing ever. Before class or in the evenings, we’d tune in to watch Chris Berman’s baseball highlights and crack up as Boomer banged out the nicknames (Jose “Won’t You Take Me On A Sea” Cruz for example). I guess it’s still great; it’s certainly everywhere (although the past few years, I’ve soured on ESPN a bit because the company seems too powerful).

The book has interesting sections and some that are tiresome (OK we get it – ESPN was a combination of nerds and frat boys bored stiff living in what was apparently the outback of Bristol, CT, so they occasionally acted stupid). I most enjoyed learning about the origins of the network. The originators envisioned it as a cable network that would carry Connecticut high school and small college sports … they had a hard time grasping that their satellite transponder could just as easily beam them around the world for the same costs. What a difference thirty-odd years makes.

The book is certainly worth reading for sports or American culture fans, but it is not a page-turner.

Next up will probably be either Wonder Girl (about Babe Didrikson) or David McCullough’s The Greater Journey (non-sports). I’ve started both but am leaning toward finishing the McCullough book first.

Gotta Love Golf

While awaiting college football season, golf gains more and more of my sports attention.

To me, the old stick and ball game carries the most compelling stories and most enjoyable competitions. Where else can you see a non-participant steal the spotlight and garner a post-event interview? Stevie Williams, the bully on the bag for Tiger Woods for the past dozen or so years, did just that when CBS funnyman David Feherty quizzed him on the 18th green after Stevie’s man Adam Scott won the Bridgestone World Golf Championship Sunday.

At least I think Scott won.

Listening to Williams proclaim the victory his career highlight (along with reciting the number of “his” wins), maybe Scott just hit the shots while Williams did all the work. Of course, Williams got the prime-time treatment because of his rift from Woods. For perhaps the first time since Thanksgiving 2009, Tiger came across as the sympathetic person. I never liked Stevie’s bullying antics … and like him less for his animosity toward a guy who earned him more than $10 million by most estimates. Oh … that’s right; Tiger didn’t win that money – Stevie did.

Past all the soap opera stuff, you have guys that really have to earn their keep on tour.

Yes the money is terrific and too much (hey – that’s professional sports in America) … but only the guys who play well win the big bucks. Just 125 players are assured their tour cards in any given year, if they don’t make a cut they hardly earn expenses for that week. They pay for their own transportation, lodging, caddies (sorry Stevie) … hey, it’s a great life, but compared to most professional athletes golfers are under tremendous financial pressure. By the way, I’ve never seen the PGA tour go on strike or have a labor lockout. Play well – win money. I like it!

Less than a month to kickoff – check back soon as we focus on football!

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