Joe Buck Criticizes Baseball

Joe Buck, lead announcer for Fox Sports baseball coverage, recently admitted on a sports talk radio show that he doesn’t have time to watch much baseball.

He said the games are too long, and too available, and kinda boring, and people are busy. It’s not like it was when he was a kid, when many games weren’t on TV at all, and the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week was a huge deal, especially if your hometown team was featured.

Both Awful Announcing and Big League Stew are annoyed.

I’m sort of down the middle on this one. I get what they’re saying, and agree with it to a point; it is a bit odd that a lead baseball announcer, who is really also a diplomat for the game, would come out and say such a thing. But let’s not shoot the messenger here; I also find it hard to argue with anything he says.

The games are too long. Especially in the American League, which (praise the Lord) I don’t watch much of. Who wants to watch baseball, even good baseball, for 3 hours and 35 minutes? I’m from the “more is not always better” school on the length of sports events and movies. Movies should be 90 – 130 minutes long, with very few exceptions. Baseball games are best when pushed along in 2:30 – 3:00. Call me crazy. Punishing me with more is just being self-indulgent, and encourages me to find other things to occupy my mind during the slow times. Though, this doesn’t bother me that much, as long as the quality of the baseball is good. I can find the time, if my alternatives are watching marginally interesting TV shows. If the Cubs were a train wreck this year, I’d be finding other things to do, and even cutting the grass might start to sound . And I sometimes listen on the radio while doing other things — and it’s always a treat to listen to Pat Hughes cover a baseball game on the radio.

The games are too available. I have noticed the same “not as special when it’s on all the time” type of sentiment. More supply = less demand. Remember Economics 101 in college? Same deal.

The games can be kinda boring. See “too long” and “too available”, above.

Some people are too busy. This is not baseball’s fault, or Joe Buck’s fault. And, maybe I’m not as busy as some. It’s summertime, it’s supposed to be relaxing. Life is meant to be lived at a slower pace in the summer. It’s a law or something. What are all these people doing on summer nights that is so important, that they don’t have time to watch a ballgame? Might be time to re-evaluate how you spend your time, eh? Of course, we have no way of knowing if this is even a relevant point to the discussion or not, it’s just the ramblings of a couple of guys on the radio. Take it for what it’s worth.

But as usual, there is a bigger picture here. I think it’s pretty clear to those of us long-time fans that something is definitely missing today, something we remember from “back in the day” when baseball was THE sport. It is still a great sport, and when played well is better than any other, in my view. But something is missing.

What that “something” is, I’m not sure. Probably a combination of different things, that all add up to “just not as interesting to me as it used to be”. Things like steroids, and free agency, and idiot unions and owners that shut down a World Series in 1994, and too much coverage on cable. In fact, let’s talk about coverage for a moment; today’s game coverage is so filled with screen graphics and crawling headlines at the bottom of the screen that you’re lucky if you can see the actual game for all the visual noise. In this way, the very coverage of the game itself is telling you to divert your attention to other things. Right now! Talk about your mixed messages. Here’s an idea: lose all that crap on the screen. It devalues the game.

Still, baseball is a great game, just not as great as it was, and for this, we can blame the things listed above. So if Joe Buck has the audacity to be honest with us, and tell us what he sees wrong with the game today, and how he remembers it being different, and better, in his youth, maybe we should pause for a moment, ignore who is saying it, and pay attention to the message itself for a few minutes.

Maybe it’s true that such criticisms are useless because you can’t turn back the clock. And maybe it’s true that this kind of thing is more yuppie whining about adulthood not being as special as we remember our youth to be.

I don’t know. I just know that Major League Baseball could be the great game it was, with some better leadership, better owners, fewer agents, and fewer crawling headlines and station promos. And to hear the authoritative voice of Joe Buck — who bugs some people a lot, but doesn’t either annoy or excite me one way or the other — offer his take on it, well, it seems kind of refreshing. For me, at least, people saying what they think is just about always better than being a politician.


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