Monday, June 12, 2006

Baseball boring?

With the World Cup getting underway, a friend of mine posted this question on our fantasy baseball site:

For Discussion: Baseball More Boring than Soccerby: Gulf Plains Drifter
Jun 10 7:07am

In 1994 I went to some World Cup games in Dallas with a friend of mine from Senegal. We didn't have anything to do Saturday night so we went to a Texas Ranger game. My buddy fell asleep in the third inning and woke up only long enough to stand up and yell at the crowd behind us: "how can you watch such a boring game!" In 1997 I was roomates with a German student at UofA (I'll see him next week at the WC in Germany). He is a huge basketball fan and also a big soccer fan. We watched games all the time. I got him to sit down and watch a baseball game once. He got antsy with how slow the play was, couldn't believe that a game lasted 3 hours, and at one point when a player stepped out of the batter's box and the announcer said "the batter calls time" my roomie jumped out of his chair and shouted: "Time out! Time out from what!" Discuss.

My belief is that boring-ness isn't a quality of any thing, in itself. We call something boring when we don't see the significance of events and we thus aren't invested in the outcome, simple as that. The game of baseball is a series of "situations", that allow an informed, invested person to anticipate, worry and hope. If you're not a fan of baseball, you don't percieve the nuances of each situation: you don't know,e.g., that Player x, who is in a slump and was last night's goat and is mostly known for his miraculous ninth inning home run in a playoff game two years ago, is up against the opponent's dominant power closer, batting lefty, which is his good side. None of that is apparent. So it's just another batter facing just another pitcher. Same as the last one. How boring. And if you're not invested in the story that's being played out - if you don't have a team you're rooting for and characters that you care about, who cares if the guy gets a hit or get's struck out. You don't have to have constant activity to hold your interest. In fact, we can span long gaps in activity with anticipation. (Ever see "Deal or No Deal"? There's literally NOTHING to that game objectively except for anticipation - but it can keep people "interested" for an hour!). In fact, soccer, with it's constant play, is thought to be boring by many Americans new to the game. Ironically, they say "nothing happens", meaning that they don't perceive the importance of the events in the game up until the rare goal. To their unpracticed eye, this constant activity is no activity. So, my answer to the question is neither game is boring - Drifter's friends are.


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