When I was a kid, my dad would take me out to the front yard and play catch with me for hours. He taught me the basics of pitching form, how to properly position myself in front of a ground ball, and everything else I needed to know about the game of baseball. Once I was old enough to play little league, he coached my team every single year. He told me I’d been blessed with a great arm, and that it would take me as far as I would let it. He was right, though it turns out that wasn’t very far. During my junior year of high school, I decided getting stoned out of my mind and chasing skirts was more fun than shagging balls and running laps while my mentally unstable coach screamed death threats at me from the seat of a riding mower. What can I say? I was 16 years old, and that coach was a real cocksucker.
It has been ten years since I last stepped onto the pitcher’s mound, and there are still moments where I miss the game like crazy. That’s an emotion with which every ex-athlete struggles. It was the reason behind Brett Favre‘s inability to remain retired, and Michael Jordan before him. Once your days of competitive sports are gone, you miss them forever. With every nine-to-five workday, Big Mac wrapper, and empty beer can, you become a shadow of your former athletic self.
Depressing facts aside, the point is that I grew up on baseball. It was my favorite sport to play, and my favorite sport to watch, whether on television or at the ballpark. I collected roughly 100 million baseball cards as a kid, which occupy boxes buried beneath Christmas decorations in my mom’s attic, and can still vividly remember the posters of Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., and Roger Clemens that adorned the walls of my childhood bedroom.
Last Thursday, I was flipping through channels and came across an NFL Preseason game: Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I was born and raised in Houston, and am an obsessive Houston Texans fan as well as season ticket holder, so I wasn’t emotionally invested in this game in any way. I watched one series in the third quarter, which resulted in a touchdown for the Ravens, and immediately had a disturbing realization. I had enjoyed that 5-minutes of meaningless NFL Preseason football more than any entire season of Major League Baseball, probably including the playoffs and World Series, in recent memory.
I wish I could say this is solely because the Houston Astros are the worst team in the history of organized sports, but that wouldn’t be fair. When the Texans were unwatchable, and David Carr was getting sacked almost every other play, I still loved watching the NFL. When the Rockets missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, I still ordered NBA League Pass, watched nearly every Rockets game, and thoroughly enjoyed the NBA as a whole. So it might be partially because the Astros really are that bad, but it’s mainly because watching Major League Baseball really is that boring.
As an American man that grew up on baseball, admitting this isn’t easy. Maybe it’s because our fast food culture is becoming increasingly demanding of immediate satisfaction, and baseball is a slow, drawn out contest. Have you ever paid attention to why each at bat takes so damn long? The pitcher waves off a sign from the catcher, steps off the mound, kicks around some dirt, and adjusts his hat before readdressing the batter. Then the batter calls time, steps out of the box, takes off his helmet, readjusts his batting gloves, checks his package, and wanders around aimlessly before finally stepping back into the box. Then ONE pitch is thrown before that entire process repeats itself as many times as it takes for something even remotely entertaining to happen. Are you kidding me? Come on, guys. I know you want as much TV time as possible, but some of us have shit to do.
Soccer fans in other countries, along with wannabe Euro-posers in America, call it “the beautiful game,” because they think watching their precious footy is like watching art in motion. That’s how they attempt to justify the overall incredibly boring nature of the sport. The nuances of baseball, with never-ending at bats dominated by Velcro maintenance, certainly have an art-like feel to them as well, but just like art museums, they bore me to tears. To be clear, I’m not saying watching baseball is as bad as watching soccer, because at least in baseball they’re actually attempting to score. I’ve seen soccer games where both teams are literally just burning clock by kicking the ball backwards for an entire half. But the fact remains, professional baseball, like soccer, fails to offer the fast-paced drama and high rate of scoring that comes with a quality NBA or NFL game, and can no longer hold my attention.
This is the United States of America. We want blood, guts and broken bones, and we want them right fucking now. We want to see Brian Cushing knock a receiver, who was ballsy enough to go over the middle, completely unconscious. We want to see Blake Griffin drag his nut sack across some unlucky white guy’s forehead as he posterizes him into the history books with a rim-rattling dunk. We want to see hockey players check each other’s helmets off as they go flying through the air and into the boards before meeting at center ice to throw down.
The undisputed worst period of the year is between the end of the NBA Finals and start of college football, which we are in the thick of at this very moment. SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day are comprised entirely of incredibly lame double plays, diving catches, and home runs, all of which we’ve see a thousand times. That’s why ESPN ends up running stories about Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel all summer, because nobody cares about baseball anymore.
Baseball will always remain close to my heart, and will be the first sport I teach my own son, but at this point I would rather watch the Food Network than a random MLB matchup. I know there are still diehard baseball fans out there, as I’m good friends with a few, and I respect the hell out of them because I don’t know how they do it. All I know is that I can’t.
I’ll take a small portion of the blame, because I’m the type of junky that refreshes Twitter every 30-seconds to get a little piece of action, but the league itself, the sport itself, and the evolving culture of our country, have to shoulder the rest of that blame.
Ironically, even as I was writing this column, the Houston Astros robbed a walk-off home run in the 10th inning before ending the game with a go-ahead run in the 11th, winning consecutive games for the first time since June against an Oakland team that has owned them all year. And for about 20 seconds, I cared again.