How many baseball games do you watch? If you’re reading this post, it’s probably a lot. Thanks to the blessing of the baseball gods, a miracle called MLB.TV allows me to watch most of the Reds games from afar. I also turn on most Nats games on the television, although I admit that when the Reds are playing at the same time, I am not as aware of what is going on in the Nats games.
But do the three and a half hours of baseball a night count as watching television? To me, “watching television” is something people do that is disengaged, an activity (irony intended) that consists of sitting down and vegging. Watching baseball, on the other hand, requires active engagement in the action on the screen, thinking about each situation, possible strategies and outcomes, and what-should-have-been-done when the desired result is not achieved.
The live element to baseball makes it different – it’s real, and it’s happening in realtime. People might argue that American Idol – which is definitely “television” – is live and the people are real and it’s happening in realtime, but it’s also scripted, and let’s face it, the show’s fans are not knowledgeable about music. No one is sitting on his couch asking, “Is the guy gonna hit the B flat?” Baseball is “Are they gonna hit and run? Is he gonna throw a change up here? Is he gonna pinch hit for the lefty?” Granted, not all fans are asking these questions during the game, and most don't do it at every pitch. But it happens enough.
Another aspect of watching a baseball game that makes it different from television is that its meandering pace allows one to partake in other activities while simultaneously paying attention to the game. I often read, write, or suffer through social media engagement while the game is on. Sometimes I clean, sometimes I take the laptop to the kitchen and cook. Nobody listens to a game on the radio without doing something else – why should a screen make it different?
So why does it matter?
This country spends an average of 3.5 hours per day in front of the tube. That’s A LOT of time spent being unproductive members of society. Now, everyone needs some time to rest and relax in between the hours of the serfdom we call employment in modern America. But 3.5 hours per day of nothingness? After 8 hours of work, an hour of commuting, an hour of getting ready (shower, shave, dressing), 7 hours of sleep, and an hour of fooding, plus time in the bathroom and all the other things we have to do every day? That’s most of your limited free time doing nothing! What’s the point of even working for a living if you’re going to cease to exist when you aren’t working?
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm different. Maybe others who watch baseball do it from a couch with a remote in hand. Maybe they are disengaged. But having baseball on the television sure feels a heck of a lot more distinct, more active, and more involved than a bunch of B-grade celebrities dancing in front of a panel of judges. Maybe I'm just biased.
I’d like to see a study of brain activity of someone who watches a three and a half hour baseball game versus someone who watches three hours of Honey Boo Boo, Pawn Stars, and that other mindless nonsense that passes for entertainment these days. (It would also be interesting to compare brain activity of those watching other sports.) Neuroscientists, get it done.