Is tension baseball's main attraction

Disclaimer - tho I am not a fan of watching baseball, I do not intend this thread to slam baseball. Played hardball as a kid and 16" softball as an adult, and attended Cubs and Sox games through high school. But as an adult, watching baseball on TV or in person is of no interest to me.

I watched part of a couple of the games in the last Cubs series. As I expected, it was hard to maintain interest for an entire game. As a non-fan, it is easy to slip into the mindset that nothing happens most of the time. Basically 2 guys are playing most of the time (3 if you count the catcher) and the rest of the guys are standing around watching.

But it struck me that perhaps the element I was not crediting enough was the tension involved. All the shots of players and managers chewing, spitting, scratching, wiping sweat. Everyone is waiting for something to happen. Either good or bad. And they are constantly making small adjustments which they hope will be to their advantage, should any activity occur that involves them.

Tho viewing baseball is still not my cup of tea, this perspective at least allowed me to understand how someone could possibly enjoy it. Am I entirely off base? If so, what is the attraction of baseball?

And - on an unrelated matter - why do the managers and coaches wear uniforms? Is there any other sport that does this?

I watch it for the stats. I find the application of stats in baseball to be facinating. And the stats work when “nothing is happening” because the pitcher is pitching the ball and the batter is choosing to swing (or not). I think a lot of baseball fans are like this. It isn’t that nothing happens - much is happening, and it actually happens slow enough, and is turn based, that you can pay attention to the little things. I especially like the stupid application of stats - in the postseason, they reset the batting average - like you can tell anything from that sample size…even the six year old at the Twins game Saturday knew that.

Although I’m not much of a baseball fan, I’m a baseball fan by marriage. Which means that in the interest of self preservation, I’ve learned to talk a good game of baseball and enjoy myself for 13 scoreless innings. But this is how I’ve learned to enjoy it.

The other aspect is the tradition…Baseball is so seeped in history and Americana. There is something about baseball that is appealing on that level. George Will’s baseball.

Don’t know about the uniforms. I watch maybe fifteen minutes of football every year because someone will have a game on when we are over and then the only other sport I watch at all is golf - and no one wears a uniform - unless you count Tiger’s Sunday shirt.

I think tension is a lot of it, and the tension is very situational. One run game in the bottom of the eighth. Visiting team has a dominant closer, so the home team needs to score this inning. A base runner with speed on first, pitcher in the stretch. Runner is bluffing a steal to draw a throw over and take the pitcher out of his rhythm. Good contact hitter at the plate, so hit and run is an option. Does the catcher call a pitchout? Infield’s at double play depth, so a bunt probably moves the runner into scoring position. The guy at the plate loves fastballs, but the pitcher is struggling with his offspeed stuff. A lefty is on deck, so the right-handed pitcher is gone if he doesn’t get this hitter.

There are a lot of small complex tensions built up that are resolved suddenly and explosively when the pitcher lets go of the ball.

First off, the other guys aren’t exactly standing around watching. There’s a ton of little stuff going on in the field that doesn’t get shown on TV. Which is why the game is better in person, frankly.

Second, Tension has a lot to do with it, I think. Last night in the A’s vs. Sox game, I didn’t even have a team in the mix and I was completely on the edge of my seat with every pitch. And it just got worse when Williamson walked the first two batters in the ninth. My stomach grew tighter with every single pitch. Fun, but not fun, at the same time. And it’s a tension unlike anything I’ve ever experienced with other sports.

And the managers and coaches wear uniforms for a variety of reasons, the main one being tradition. There used to be a tradition of players-mangers, so they would wear their uniforms. Also, there’s a rule that states you have to wear a uniform if you want to step on the field (naturally excepting medical folks, etc). So, while Connie Mack used to wear a suit, he couldn’t visit the mound.

Plus, have you seen most dugouts? Would you wear a suit in those disgusting filth holes?

Tension and anticipation, absolutely, is the main source of excitement. That’s why people are concerned about the length of games - it’s not that games are too long, it’s that too many delays in the action reduce the tension.

Of course, the game is also remarkably beautiful. It’s the most skill-intensive of all sports. A baseball diamond is an aesthetically gorgeous setting for a sport. It is the oldest (by far) of all North American team sports and has a huge wealth of tradition and history which is far more relevant to the sport than in any other sport.

And the fact that most of a baseball game is waiting is really not unique to baseball. Most of a football game is waiting. In three hours, an NFL game might, if you are really lucky, contain ten minutes of actual play - about the same as a baseball game. The other two hours and 50 minutes is guys standing around doing nothing.

Yes, I’d say tension is a major part of it. It is my assertion that there is no pressure situation in any sport nearly equal to that of being down by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and a man on base. There’s nothing like it in any sport except baseball, in my opinion.

Why? Because in baseball, if you excuse my waxing poetical here, one out is all you need. With only one out, you can play forever. You can score fifteen runs on a single out; or you can whiff on three straight and go down swinging. Down by three touchdowns with 0:16 on the clock? Forget it. The game’s over. Down by four goals with 0:25 left in the third period? Not close. Down by 26 points with 0:20 on the shot clock? Don’t bother.

But in baseball, you can do it. You can beat the devil, you can live forever, you can stretch out the summer by just one more game.

If you know anything about baseball, then you know the players are not surprised by what’s happening on the field. The fans aren’t surprised. They know what’s coming. So there’s a man on first and second, one out, right-handed hitter at the plate and a lefty changeup artist on the mound, not much of a heater but he’s got a wicked curve. The fans are waiting for the double play ball, a sharp grounder to short. The batter knows he’s going to see something off-speed, probably low, probably low and inside, and he’s going to do his damndest to punch that ball the other way into right field. The pitcher knows he’s got to induce the batter to swing over and early so the ball trickles to the left side. The shortstop is on his toes: the next ball belongs to him. The first baseman wants to close up the gap on the right side to take away the opposite-field single, but stay close enough to the bag for the 6-4-3 double play ball. The catcher is ready to block the ball if it goes in the dirt, as a wayward curveball can do. Everybody on the field knows what’s coming, what could be coming.

The tension for the fans lies in the question: will it happen like that? Will the batter ground out to short into a double-play? Will the runner from first break up the play and throw his spikes at the second baseman as he slides into the bag, out by a mile? Will the throw to first be on-line? Or will the batter single sharply to right, challenging the right fielder with a cannon for an arm, daring him to throw out the second-base runner as he rounds third headed for home? Isn’t the second baseman playing too far over? Why does the pitcher keep shaking off that sign, we know what he’s going to throw? If they score this run, will they pull the pitcher? How much gas has he got left?

Anyway. I love baseball. I can’t stand the tension: it’s a delirious agony to watch, a splendid ordered chaos. But maybe that’s just me. :slight_smile:


To elaborate on Neurotik’s point, the problem is that in baseball, players are spread out farther during your average play than they are in football or basketball. This makes it difficult for a camera to accurately portray the amount of movement and activity that takes place on the field during an at-bat or when the ball is in play. You seldom see, for example, how an outfield will skew itself to each batter’s tendencies or how a pitcher will run towards third to back up that base in case the third baseman gets pulled away. And since the camera will focus in the spot where the most action is taking place, it leads the untrained spectator to assume that because they’re not directly involved in the play, everyone else is just standing still, watching the action unfold.

I agree that tension is the reason I love the game. I always enjoy seeing how my team’s pitcher will match up against another team’s hitters or how well my team’s fielders will handle their baserunners. It really can be an “us vs. them” situation on both a team and individual basis, and there’s no way of being sure of the outcome. Will Maddux strike Thome out, or will Thome get the best of Maddux this time? Will the infielders be able to keep Furcal from stealing, or will he have his way with them? Can the heart of the batting order rise to the challenge? You have to watch to find out. That, to me, is what makes each game exciting.

I do not watch baseball. I listen to it as a background. When something happens the announcer tells you. I remember going to a bar with my dad and watching a screen, that mimiced the announcers call. I know that something might happen in the game, but i refuse to wait for it now. It is tension, waiting for something to happen, but it might not happen.

The game is a series of individual matchups. That’s why it’s so interesting. It’s the pitcher versus the batter, the outfielder’s arm versus the baserunner’s speed, the managers trading substitutions to get the best matchup.

Watching baseball on TV, in my opinion, is nothing like being there. You can’t appreciate the strategy as well on TV, because you may not see the left fielder giving away the line, or the shortstop sneaking behind the runner for a pickoff attempt.

Football is stop and start strategy. Baseball strategy requires players and managers to adapt to different situations after every pitch.

As George Will has said, “Football is very American. It’s violence punctuated with committee meetings.”

Each game has a long series of discrete actions. Football’s discrete actions tend to be noisier.

Now if you want to speak of aestetically beautiful sports venues, we must turn to golf… :smiley:

It is odd that I just recently began thinking of baseball in this manner. Now that I have, I can view people’s enjoyment of baseball as simply a matter of taste - akin to the way people may differ in the types of movies or books they enjoy. Someone might enjoy a dark, brooding drama, while another might prefer comedy or action. IMO, it is pretty nonsensical to opine that one style is inherently better than the other.

I realized some while ago that much of football (American) is waiting around. But during the discrete moments of activity, every player on the field performs major movements, rather than the fine adjustments in baseball.

Soccer might be similar to baseball in terms of “style.” To an uninterested spectator, nothing happens for long periods. But to a fan, tons of stuff is going on all of the time.

Personally, tho I am not much for spectator sports, my preference runs more towards basketball, where there is a constant ebb and flow, with continuous movement, an everchanging score, and obvious personal matchups.

But I’d far rather play golf, go for a run, or toss a ball around with my kids than watch any sport on TV.


But it’s all about the release to me, baby!

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”- Earl Weaver

Baseball is rarely boring if you get into the duel between the pitcher and the batter: the strengths and weaknesses of each, what each is trying to do, what has happened between them up to this point, etc. High-scoring games with many hits and lots of plays can be great. 0-0 in the 8th inning can be better.

Staff Report on the subject: Why do baseball coaches wear uniforms?