TV Article

And Throw Away the Key

Jeff Jarvis on why he hates baseball -- The critic discusses his boredom with America's ''favorite'' pastime

Call me un-American; call me Canadian or Swedish, I don't care. I hate baseball. I'm one of the few real Americans and real men who wished that this season's baseball lockout would have lasted the whole year. (The truth is, I don't much like sports of any kind. Yes, I know this issue of Entertainment Weekly is filled with them: sneaker commercials starring jocks, bars filled with jocks, videos about jocks — baseball players — and videos about near-jocks — golfers. The magazine is positively drenched in sweat. There had to be some antidote. I guess I'm it.)

My happiest months in memory came during the '81 baseball strike. Those were 50 days without boredom. A summer without sweat. A TV season filled with glorious old movies and reruns.

I have lots of reasons to hate baseball. For one, it's dull. Nothing happens. Watching baseball is like going to a lecture by a member of the Slow... Talkers... of... America. It's like turning on the TV when the cable is out. It's like watching grass — no, AstroTurf — grow. And baseball fans can be even duller than the game they love. They talk statistics. They argue that baseball is rich with strategy and truth. They talk nonsense.

But I'll be honest. Baseball fans aren't really so bad. It's just that they intimidate the hell out of me. I have no idea what they're talking about. When I was a kid, I dreaded getting a haircut — not just because it was the '60s and cool kids never got haircuts but because I lived in fear that the barber would start talking about baseball and I would be exposed as an alien and a very weird kid.

You may wonder why I bother whining about the great American pastime. You may say: Shut up, wimp, nobody's forcing you to watch. But that's just my point. In baseball season, we are forced to watch.

It's everywhere.

ESPN paid $400 million to show 175 games a season for four seasons, giving us six games a week. But I don't begrudge them that. ESPN is a sports network and if they didn't run baseball, they'd have to run more tournament volleyball and monster truck action. No, baseball is fine on ESPN. CBS paid $1.06 billion to show 16 games a season for four seasons plus the World Miniseries or something like that. But considering how CBS is doing these days, I suppose even I would prefer baseball to their regularly scheduled programming. So that's not so bad (as long as they never preempt Murphy Brown!). No, what really bugs me is that baseball takes over the cable superstations and all my local channels (except PBS). Baseball cuts into my beloved nightly reruns of Cheers and M*A*S*H, the perfect end to any imperfect day. That, I cannot pardon.

So forgive me for gloating over the lockout, for wishing it would have lasted forever, for refusing to celebrate its end. While everyone prays for hits and runs, I just want reruns.

Originally posted Mar 30, 1990 Published in issue #7 Mar 30, 1990 Order article reprints