Sunday, March 17, 2013

A response to Jeff Passan's, "U.S. fans are boring"

Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan, recently called American baseball fans boring and judging from this particular paragraph, it is because we do not watch a baseball game with the same fervor as a football or basketball game:
"Were people to tune in, they'd see baseball can capture the dynamism of college basketball and football, our two sports that feel as much like a rock concert as they do a sporting event. Much has been made of the United States not having the same passion for baseball as the Dominican Republic or Japan. That's rationalizing. And it's not true. If conventions were different – if players and fans both weren't boxed in to a preconceived set of emotions, reactions and morés – American baseball would be just like the rest of the world."
I get it. As a whole, we are just not that into the World Baseball Classic and we don't get ourselves whipped up into a frenzy like fans of the Japanese, Dominican Republic and others do. We don't get a rock concert feel at a baseball game. The games do not have a dynamism of college basketball or football.  And perhaps Passan--who I respect greatly--has a point that our baseball watching ways come a bit from who we are as a people and how we live our lives.

But I think Mr. Passan misses a point here. Unlike just about any other sport, baseball is obsessed with statistics and those statistics are important in only two ways, the regular season and less importantly, the post season. And since how well or how poorly our teams are doing is based on those statistics, anything that happens outside of those two parameters don't matter.

This even relates to the All Star Game. Do you ever hear anyone quoting All Star statistical facts? Nope, because the game doesn't count. It is also why Spring Training becomes a drag once the initial novelty wears out. Those games do not count either. And even when a prospect has a great spring, it does not matter. Contrary to beliefs, hardly anyone wins or loses jobs in Spring Training.

American baseball enthusiasts care about games that count. The World Baseball Classic will never count. Therefore, for the most part, they are viewed with sleepy eyes and viewership shrugs.

There is another point to be made here. Baseball fans are trained to be patient. Why? Because each season contains thirty teams that play 162 games each. That adds up to 2,430 baseball games a season. We know that if our team starts the season 10-1, it's best to not get too excited because a lot can happen over the next 151 games. 

How many college games do they play in basketball and in football? To my shame, I don't really know. But I know it isn't 162. Each contest, then, becomes more crucial and important. Baseball seasons in other countries do not consist of as many teams or as long a season--with perhaps an exception of Japanese baseball. 

And there is something else to be said here. We American baseball fans watch our sport with teams that are made up of players from around the world. The best talent of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic come here to play because this is where the money is. The World Baseball Classic gives these countries a chance to see and root for players that already fill them with nationalistic pride because they have made it as stars in American baseball. 

Our sympathies are torn when our favorite player like a Robinson Cano plays for the Dominican Republic team or some other players play for the Puerto Rican team and others. 

There is one more point I want to make. The American press has increasingly become a jaded press. I don't really mean "jaded" in a negative sense. But since Watergate, the key is to be about the truth beneath the hype. Our American journalists do not let nationalism get in the way of their reporting. I don't think this is true of other countries.

This World Baseball Classic becomes a series for national pride in other countries and I don't know for a fact, but I suspect that the press in those countries whip up some national fervor for the results of their teams. Thus those country's teams and fans are whipped up into more of a frenzy. There is less of a "fair" analysis of who the manager is and what moves he makes.

The American press, in comparison, will spend countless pages analyzing what Joe Torre did as manager and what moves he made that did or did not work. 

American fans will never really buy into the World Baseball Classic. The games do not count or mean anything statistically. They are a flash of games to be followed by a long, grueling season that is much more marathon than sprint. Yes, American baseball is more pastoral. The NFL has taken over our country of MTV-inspired sound bites because the action covers only sixteen games per season for each team. The games are played once a week. A typical baseball week consists of fifteen games a day for at least five of the days per week. With such a baseball season, and for such reasons, the WBC will never really catch on here. If that makes us boring, so be it.


Anonymous said...

If MLB games permitted/included the air horns and noise makers the WBC games allow, I would never attend another MLB game......

Eric said...

"anything that happens outside of those two parameters don't matter." I stopped reading after this because while you make a good point or two up until then, you are missing the point entirely. It's that sort of mindset that gives the US a bad reputation in the WBC. People overseas see that the US doesn't care as much and why shouldn't they? All I hear are excuses from people. If this was the Olympics, people would care. So just because we don't have the rings shown everywhere people aren't supposed to care?

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

So we are bad people then if we love most flowers but don't care for daffodils? I don't get the logic.

eric said...

No you are missing the bigger picture of why this tournament is important.