Baseball (and other) Thoughts During the Super Bowl
by Paul Semendinger
February 14, 2022
Happy Valentine’s Day!
The following were my baseball thoughts as I watched the Super Bowl yesterday:
1) One compelling aspect of football and the NFL over baseball, and it’s a big part of the sport (of baseball) that has changed over the last 100 years is the “head-to-head” match-up. Yesterday it was Joe Burrow vs. Matt Stafford. Quarterback against Quarterback. And while they don’t actually battle against each other, they showcase their skills against each other. Baseball used to have this. Lefty Grove vs. Lefty Gomez. Whitey Ford vs. Sandy Koufax. Ron Guidry vs, Don Sutton. Roger Clemens vs. Pedro Martinez. Over time, a closer was added to the mix. Mariano Rivera vs. Trevor Hoffman. That was still exciting. But now we have “3-Inning Guy,” followed by “Just-Called-Up Guy” who is relieved by “I-Have-To-Face Three-Batters-But I’ll-Be Gone-Right-After-That Guy” followed by “I’m Still Hanging On Guy,” followed by “I Might be a Closer One Day Guy” before we even get to the closer. Both teams use the same formula. It’s a much less compelling formula and as a result the game itself suffers. Football is exciting because we get to see the star quarterback in the closing moments. This is one reason Tom Brady was so great. He led amazing drives to win games in the closing moments countless times. Baseball loses something when the game becomes less of a battle between two star pitchers and more a battle of “whose bullpen is better on any given day.”
2. If the baseball season is delayed, shortened, or anything like that, it will be a huge crime and affront to the fans. Period. Period. Exclamation point. Period. The game is held as sort of a public trust and should not be allowed to be taken away from us. Time and again, these owners hold the fans, who generate their riches, in contempt. I know that even when the season comes, I’ll go to fewer games – maybe none at all. I am that angry and discouraged by this whole lock out. I still love baseball. I’ll still watch the games and care, deeply, about the Yankees. But I don’t need to help fill the team’s vast and expansive pockets. No, if they can take the game away from me all winter, I won’t come running back just because they eventually settle.
3. The Super Bowl is much more fan friendly than the World Series. Imagine starting a World Series game at 6:30 p.m. Baseball games start late, end later, and leave the older fans who stay up exhausted while they completely shut out the younger fans who can’t stay up for the game. Baseball can learn a lot from football. To boot – start the games earlier, promote your stars, oh, and play the actual games. (Baseball can’t generate any fans or any fan interest if they don’t actually play the games.)
4. Sometimes I think that the people who run baseball don’t even like the game or even understand it. They don’t seem to be fans of the sport and they’re certainly not fans of the fans.
5. They do call it the No Fun League for a reason. At one point, a player came off the bench to celebrate an interception in the end zone (as I recall). It was an exciting time. It was a big moment. And it ended in a penalty. That just takes the fun out of a game. Imagine that in baseball, “Oh, my! He homers, but the back-up shortstop came out of the dugout to celebrate… it’ll just be a triple.” You can’t have calls like that. They take the energy out of big moments. That’s just bad.
6. Television coverage of these big sporting events needs to get more balanced. A few years ago in the baseball playoffs, they focused exclusively on Jose Altuve. Every time something happened they had to show his reaction. Yesterday, they did that on every single play in the second half with Aaron Donald of the Rams. It’s overkill. “He wasn’t in on that tackle, but he would have been.” “Look, Aaron Donald is upset that his quarterback missed a pass.” It’s just too much. They make the focus on one player so exclusively that it becomes tedious. Football, especially, is about more than one player. I really didn’t care who won yesterday, but as the second half went on and on (it was not the greatest game ever) I rooted against the Rams just because I was tired of seeing the defensive guy on every other shot, even when his offense was on the field. When the networks do this, they’re showing zero creativity and allowing a non-narrative to be the story. It makes for a poor production and a poor product.
7. I give the commercials a C- to a D. They were all the same thing. They tried so hard to be original and off-beat, that they ended up all the same. There was no commercial that made me remember a product. And it seemed that every other commercial was for a movie or television show that would be streaming on some network. I think a person would have to spend about $10,000 a month to get each of the streaming networks and the shows that were advertised. Then, the only way they would be able to see all the shows would be to quit their jobs and then they wouldn’t be able to get the channels anyway. How many Jurassic Parks do there need to be anyway?
8. The end of the game was a disaster with one penalty called after the next. This is why sports must disassociate with betting. There were a few very questionable calls that helped the Rams win in the final minutes. Even the announcers didn’t know what to say. Was it fixed? No, I don’t think so, but when sports and betting are so intertwined, it sure raises the question. In order to have legitimacy, sports should never even be in a position to have the integrity of the game questioned. The close ties with all these betting apps is eventually going to lead to a problem in one of the sports. And once that happens, it’ll be too late.
9. The constant penalties at the end, all in the last minutes, really took the excitement out of the game. The announcer Chris Collinsworth then tried far too hard to say how exciting it was when it wasn’t exciting at all. I like Collinsworth, but he wasn’t at his best yesterday. Call the game as it was. Through much of the game, he noted that the referees were letting the players play. When they started throwing flags incessantly, he should have said, “You know what, they’re now calling a tighter game, and that’s not right.” He should not have said, again and again, how that last scoring drive was one of the best he ever saw.
9. I don’t watch basketball or hockey. I have no interest in the Olympics. It’s now supposed to be the time to get excited for baseball. Except we have a sport run by people that do not understand that they are destroying it by taking it away from the fans. I hope they settle soon.
I don’t think they will.