Several weeks ago, I engaged in a discussion with a friend about how boring baseball is. At least that’s what he said. Especially when compared to football. That's an easy (and lazy) argument for a sports fan to make. Baseball does require fans to pay attention to what’s happening between pitches, which is kind of different from football because practically every lull in the action is filled with a commercial break.
This is an argument I hear all the time. And it’s an argument that’s really hard to understand, especially if a fan is at a baseball game. Watch all of the players, not just the pitcher and/or the batter. If the pitcher is standing on the rubber getting a sign, watch to see where the outfielders position themselves. That gives a fan an indication of what the pitch might be, or where the coaches think the ball might be hit.
Watch the infielders. Does the left side move toward first base? Do the middle infielders cut toward second? Does the third baseman guard the line or the first baseman creep toward the plate, anticipating a bunt? What about the batter? Does he adjust his positioning in the box depending on the count or what pitch he thinks is coming? Does the runner on first take a bigger lead anticipating the hit-and-run, forcing the first baseman to check him by covering the bag?
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It’s an intriguing chess match, and that’s what happens between pitches. Once the pitcher goes into his windup, watch the fielders prepare to spring into action and the runner take off for second base. Which infielder cuts off the outfield throw? Does the pitcher move to back up the throw to first or to the catcher in case there is a play at the plate?
Football is seemingly more exciting, but is it? Sure, there’s a brief burst of movement with huge men banging into each other, potentially causing brain damage that may lead to dementia later in life. There’s nothing better than a well-executed play-action pass that causes the defenders to bite on the run, letting a receiver get wide open in the secondary, where he catches the ball in stride and takes into the end zone for a touchdown.
Then, seconds later, the play is over. If it’s a touchdown, there’s a brief delay for the replay review (because as the announcers always stress, all scoring plays are reviewed). Then the special teams unit steps on the field and the kicker kicks the point after touchdown. Then there’s several minutes of commercials. Then there’s a kickoff, usually into the end zone for a touchback because players are wary of the aforementioned head injuries. Then another commercial break. Then maybe a couple of plays in which everyone hopes there are no penalties or incomplete passes, which stop the clock; or close plays that sometimes spur replay reviews for several minutes — most of which time is usually consumed with more commercials.
I’m a fan of most sports, and there are really only two that are full of constant action — hockey and soccer. Basketball has lots of action, until the last two minutes of the game, which usually take an hour to play because of numerous timeouts and commercials. But football is boring at times. Seriously, it is the worst sporting event to attend in person because of the large amount of time in which absolutely nothing happens — oh, look, the coach is doing another wholesale change of his defensive lineup while the offense substitutes in the run-oriented backs and tight end. And great, there’s a touchback; let's watch an empty field for two minutes while the television broadcast cuts to commercial.