Baseball’s been written to death. Phrases like "the crack of the bat," "the smell of grass," and "the roaring crowd" are all trotted out in nearly every piece that needs a semi-literary gleam to it. And there’s nothing like waxing poetically about the live game, because it connects the writer to a pedigree of other, older, revered writers who went to the game because they had little other choice.
One of the greatest accounts of sport is the extended profile by John Updike: Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. Updike bought a ticket as a young writer, experienced the last game of Ted Williams, and then wrote an account of the whole thing for the New Yorker. It’s rightly considered one of the best pieces of sports writing, and part of its magic is that Updike attended the game at all.
The modern sports experience has advanced to the point that it is almost more enjoyable to stay home. Multiple camera angles, 24-hour baseball coverage, multitudes of websites dedicated to the information and analysis of baseball. At the game you can hear someone peddle lemonade for 3 hours.
And going to the park adds so much more hassle. You have to drive to the park, unless you’re one of the few that live anywhere near a lightrail station, and then find parking. Both are going to cost you something. Then you have to slowly make your way into the park, buy some subpar food (after a long wait) before making it to your uncomfortable seat. Never mind that everyone always gets weirded out if I show up in just my underwear. No one cares if I do that at home.
Not that there aren’t good reasons to still attend games. There’s always the miniscule chance you’ll catch a baseball. You can see the whole game develop in a way you can’t on a TV, no matter how many cameras. It’s a great opportunity to meet other people, and chat about things collectively without the pressure of every seeing any of them again. But even at the park the modern experience is creeping in slowly. You can score a game on your smartphone, or pull up stats and highlights, or even order food at some parks.
The at-home experience has improved in such a way that the fan is almost disincentivized to attend a live game. Sure, it might cost a season ticket to set up a nice lounge area, but then you can use it for games, events, and movies. Season tickets lock you into 80 dates where you have to go out of your way to a part of town you probably normally wouldn’t go.
An entire body of literature exists to explain how multiple city cores have developed, and how the sphere of space necessary for a person has expanded with technological improvement. Without boring you too much with the details, the consumer has come a long way in the past 100 years, and baseball has finally caught up. In a modern city like Phoenix, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to go to the park every day. People who buy homes in North Scottsdale probably did that because they like it there; why would they purposefully leave 80 nights a summer?
So excuse me if I stay at home most nights. Maybe sinking 4 or 5 hours, including travel time, into baseball trips is nice on occasion, but if MLB is going to give me a great experience home why wouldn’t I take advantage of it? Maybe I won't write the next Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, but what was the likelihood of that happening? Sometimes you have to just set aside the typewriter and the nostalgia fetishism, and just watch the damn game.