“It’s the players’ fault, bro. Just stop messing around and get in the box on time so I can be entertained!”
Should we expect baseballers who have played America’s pastime since they were little kids to be somewhat perplexed by a clock governing how they get into the batter’s box? Yes, we should.
Let’s cut to the crash: the new MLB “pitch clock” has just about desecrated what was left of a once authentic sport played on a simple dirt and grass field, with a mental game as important as the physical one. It is symbolic of the steady and distasteful slide from genuine competition to packaged and engineered entertainment in the professional sports world.
Sound a bit harsh? Perhaps. But it’s the truth. The pristine idea of real sports has been gobbled up by an entertainment complex run by businessmen increasingly desperate for more viewers and more money along with them. The individual teams – franchises if you will – don’t dictate the outcomes anymore. There are ulterior agendas afoot and they only care about entertainment value.
The NFL, or National Fixed League, is far down this road. The NBA, or National Betting Association, isn’t far behind. Major League Baseball (I’ll come up with a nickname later), for a long time maintained a respectable distance from this.
However, in recent years, the same businessmen orchestrating the NFL and NBA looked at baseball with concern that not enough kids were watching. Not enough Instagram reels of highlights had been shared. Not enough money was being bet on baseball. So they looked to reshape it – and in turn, ruin the game entirely.
Now they’ve finally gotten their wish. Players will have 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw with bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on.
Players are, as predicted, already struggling with the change during spring training. Numerous “strikeouts” have already been called via “time’s up” calls from umpires, even as batters are just getting into the box or a pitcher is in the middle of his wind-up. This is clearly an injury waiting to happen.
What this boils down to is that sports are an industry more than a competitive game anymore. Players are not dependent on their team’s performance for a higher paycheck; they are paid by how entertaining a show they can put on. Like a movie, the viewing audience’s satisfaction is of utmost importance, not whether their team wins or loses.
Revenue sharing is part of all three major leagues by now, which means that players across all teams are paid by the league as a whole, NOT their franchises. The National Fixed League started this years ago by forming itself as one enterprise. The National Betting Association and MLB have followed suit. Players aren’t paid to win; they are paid to entertain. Nobody makes less for losing.
There are glaring signs of this everywhere across these leagues. The general managers all resemble salesmen and politicians now. They talk like they’re trying to please an audience instead of speaking candidly about their team’s fortunes. Browns GM Andrew Berry talks as if everything is hunky dory with a football team that’s gone 15-19 in the last two seasons.
What’s more, the players are friends with each other. If Larry Bird saw Magic Johnson in the hotel lobby they’d want to go fight one another. At the very least they wouldn’t say a word to each other. They certainly wouldn’t be sharing girls on a boat in Indonesia during the off-season and clinking margarita glasses with each other.
As I said: winning is not most important anymore; keeping viewers entertained and glued to their screens is.
So they’ve tried to sanitize the game. Polish up all the rough edges, go above and beyond to prevent any kind of injury, build domes to shield multimillion dollar-players from the elements, and take away missed calls.
All of those imperfections and the dirty, unkept, rough elements are part of the game. It’s part of live competition. Once you take them away you’re left with a sterile exercise in throwing, catching and running.
This may be more entertaining for half-wit viewers who clap their hands like cymbal-smashing toy monkeys at whatever shiny object is dangled in front of them on television, but it’s the antithesis of genuine sport between competing squads.
The great irony of this is that it doesn’t make the game more entertaining. It makes it predictable, distasteful and eye-rolling. I can’t trust it anymore. It just feels like there’s some ulterior motive at play, instead of two teams that desperately want to win squaring off with each other. And please, don’t tell me that stopping the game to enforce a clock violation will speed the game up. Or how taking 10 minutes to review every close call makes the game go faster. Just stop.
It’s the same feeling we all sensed when real boxing turned to fake wrestling, which has now culminated in the WWE.
Most people still have their eyes wide shut. Maybe the NFL, NBA and MLB will one day be regarded as the WWE by the mainstream. Maybe we’ll be transparent about its fakeness and watch it with a tongue in our cheek. I would have more respect for these leagues if we did.
But I suspect that’s a long way away.