Riveting, yes riveting. A baseball game during which I enjoyed watching the crowd as the camera captured those fortunate enough to be sitting just behind home plate. They were all watching each pitch and reacting. Some joined others in clapping to urge the pitcher on. Each pitch was suspenseful because the ultimate bragging rights were on the line.
I watch some St Louis Cardinal games during the regular season while fast forwarding through commercials. It was the team of my youth. Mostly the fans sitting behind home plate are talking, looking at their phones, eating and the like. Some are paying attention, but to suggest they are riveted would be fantasy.
It is said that given an amped up popular culture baseball is on the wrong side of the curve and baseball executives know how a good curveball makes even good hitters look foolish. When you have bought whatever team for a billion dollars or more being on the wrong side of the curve, well that warrants some batting practice and perhaps a change in your stance.
So, baseball executives are talking about a pitch clock to speed up the game. Good idea. And some kind of limit on defensive shifts. But let me get to my thought and not drag you through the details.
I love the NCAA basketball “one and done” tournament. Every game is win or go home. Suspense is the ambient emotion. And, at least theoretically, each play in a football game can be a game changer.
Baseball on the other hand is a game of intricacies and devoted fans talk about arm angles and why electronic pitch box computers and screens should be further used as robotic umpires. Warning: some of the umpires are more colorful than most of the players, but I digress.
Those with the power to make changes face a sport with a storied history, immortalized with team and player statistics. Be careful around the immortal. I am sure there are, in these meetings, purists who worry about going too far. There should be.
From my vantage point I would concentrate on one word, suspense. What changes are going to make each pitch more suspenseful not just more hurried by a pitch clock?
My modest (although somewhat radical) suggestion is that the season be divided into say four 40 game tournaments with the fourth one, the end of the season playoffs, capped off with the World Series.
The teams with the best records in the three tournaments would be rewarded with preferred positioning and more home games in the ultimate one. In short, there would be real advantages to winning from the first to the last game. Every game should be more interesting than what you might find on your smartphone.
Regardless, I look forward to “play ball” next April.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.