A few weeks ago, I was watching the Red Sox play a reasonably interesting game (although they’ve been few and far between this year) against their newfound nemeses the Baltimore Orioles. Chris Sale—who makes me giddy—was facing off against Chris Tillman. Granted, it was only June, but given the raucous surrounding these two teams this season, the spiking and subsequent bevvy of beam balls, it had all the ingredients of an interesting contest.
In the past, the game would’ve held me spellbound. However, despite my best attempts, I was more interested in my phone and the frivolousness it feeds me in twenty-second intervals, and missed most of what transpired.
Much has been said about the pace of the game and baseball’s lack of appeal to a 21st Century viewer. In fact, I wrote a sanctimonious column about this a few years ago. But I’ve noticed—mostly this season—that I’ve been struggling to stay focused when the games are on, and the culprit resides in my hand.
It’s not because I find baseball dull. There is a beauty in baseball, a type of poetry to the game that flirts with perfection when it’s played well. While I suppose the same could be said for any sport, there is something about the pastoral nature of the baseball that I’ve always found appealing. And I don’t mind long games. It’s more baseball.
If I’m going to get nostalgic—and I’m going to get nostalgic—some of my earliest memories of watching the Red Sox include lying on a couch on weekend afternoons, in a semi-somnolent state, listening to Ned Martin and Bob Montgomery call the games.
It is my Happy Place.
Now, I’ve blamed this particular Red Sox team and this particular Red Sox manager and this particular front office for my ennui, but it has occurred to me lately that maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s me and my phone.
Technology addiction is a real thing, and it could lead to the obliteration of baseball. The cell phone, an appendage for most of us, has made it difficult for us to focus our attention on anything that requires our concentration for longer than a nanosecond. We need hot shots of stimuli, often and always, or we quickly become disinterested.
In fact, I just checked my phone while writing this for no good reason other than my next fix. No messages, by the way.
If you’re still reading this, congratulations. It takes time to read, and reading is a slow process. Some websites, in fact, will now give you the average amount of time it takes to read an article so you don’t, you know, get bored.
When someone like me, a lifelong fan of the game, starts becoming distracted and unable to concentrate then there seems to be something systematic. The next baseball game you watch, take a gander at the crowd. How many fans are staring at their phones, oblivious to the fact that a game is going on in front of them?
I’m not suggesting that we go back to the days of scoring games—although when I see people in the stands doing it, I want to kiss them on the cheek. But baseball has a hit on its head (pun-intended), and technology is its assassin.
If things don’t change and we all transform into the Diamondback selfie girls, the game will soon see its demise.