A decade or so ago, when I couldn’t afford the full MLB.TV package and bundling it wasn’t a thing my cell phone company did, I’d subscribe every baseball season to their audio-only package.
Sitting here this afternoon and listening to a Red Sox spring training game on WEEI (T-Mobile’s bundling of the full package for its customers doesn’t drop until next week), Rob Bradford was complaining about the television broadcasts during the World Baseball Classic not doing enough to let viewers experience the scene at the ballpark during games.
In response, Will Flemming specifically said that the bigger the moment and the bigger the stage, the more broadcasters should shut up.
When I first started listening to baseball this way, it sure felt like broadcasters spent most of their time calling plays and describing what was happening on the diamond. By which I mean I feel like I’d hear about the pitcher getting set, a second baseman inching over, the catcher changing his crouch. Today, I feel like even important game calls are treated as an aside, an interruption of their live sports-talk podcast show.
Surely I can’t be alone in longing for the days when I felt like I was listening to—or watching—a baseball game and not listening to—or watching—two (or more!) people opine about anything and everything about the sport overall. Any or all of these people can, and mostly probably do, so opine on other shows and in other places.
Why can’t the broadcast of baseball games actually just be devoted to the game at hand?
MLB.TV could solve part of this problem itself, in one fell swoop: once upon a time it offered an option to play ballpark sounds. I’d give almost anything to be able to put the NESN video feed on backed by nothing but the sounds of the actual game.
There’s a series of interstitials that run on MLB.TV between innings called Baseball Zen. Originally it was the sight and sound of things like the diamond being raked, or a rain delay, in slow-motion and ASMR. Then they became things like Air Force flybys and home run celebrations. Apparently, simply using slow-motion and ASMR—even when the imagery is of war machines—to Major League Baseball qualifies as “zen”.
If the league really wants me to experience and appreciate a sense of Baseball Zen, let me watch the game without the sounds of baseball broadcasters.
- Sitting here on opening day, I see that the new crop of Baseball Zen does away with the slow motion altogether, making it all that much less zen than the not-really-zen it was before.