By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I know that Yoenis Cespedes won the 2014 Home Run Derby because Wayne Randazzo told me on 670 The Score as I drove home late Monday night from a class I’m taking. At no point before, during or after doing some literary analysis of August Wilson’s play Fences — a work that includes baseball in its plot — with 13 other English major dorks did I lament missing out on watching.
Because the Home Run Derby is no longer interesting to me, and gauging from the radio and social media, I’m not alone.
Throughout the day I watched my Twitter feed prime itself with the combination of whining and making jokes about the event hours before, stretching out Twitter limbs for some whining and making jokes during the event, to later morph into whining and making jokes about after. Hate-watching — a modern practice I participate in all the time.
But for us hate-watchers, if we’re honest with ourselves, we only engage in it because A) we secretly do kind of enjoy what we’re watching and B) we can’t think of anything better to do with ourselves. Reading a book, watching a different program of more substance or taking a walk in the woods because you wish to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if you could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when you came to die, discover that you spent a few hours making fun of the the Home Run Derby’s rain delay — that stuff is harder to do than make fun of the Home Run Derby’s rain delay.
The Derby is an exception for me, though. I didn’t hate-watch it, and I feel totally fine. I didn’t need to wake up and read a recap. My 2014 is Derby-free, and I don’t feel empty inside. Maybe you who also is jaded by professional athletes doing batting practice might try that.
What do you risk losing? New re-wordings of mockery about Chris Berman’s re-wordings of suburbs the home runs landed in? Or do you fear not witnessing the majesty and history of guys paid to hit home runs in meaningful games against pitchers throwing nasty breaking stuff and crackling heaters hitting home runs off of pitching coaches soft-tossing balls to them?
Exhibitions in pro sports are passé. And there isn’t really anything that can be done to improve the format. Targets in the outfield? Yeah, see the dip in homers and their distances accelerate as sluggers try to “place” a 390-foot shot. The choosing of team captains added zero spice. A guy playing for some civilian not even from his team’s city to win a house just made me hate my mortgage payments more.
Despite any lip service participants will pay, none of them would prefer spending a night at a ballpark not playing actual baseball over an actual day free for complete mind and body rest. Want to participate, Mike Trout? No. Miguel Cabrera? Nope. MLB home run leader and probable American League Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu? Nah. And the guy one homer behind him, Nelson Cruz? Pass. All of these top mashers worry that the Home Run Derby will negatively affect their swings going forward in real games that matter.
“When you get asked to do something like this, I wasn’t even thinking about my swing, not at all,” noted famous baseball celebrity and Derby participant Todd Frazier said. Good for him. Those other guys all hate fun.
The Derby is tired and seemingly unimprovable. That is, at least until people stop watching. So don’t. Liberate yourself from a pointless evening of Berman soundtracking baseball’s equivalent of a monster truck rally. Run away from the heroes daring to point out that in America our ball-go-far-hitters need to speak American during the all-important, always enlightening on-field interview.
Usually I find binary reasoning like that lame if there exists a potential third option or an opportunity for improvement, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. This isn’t the Slam Dunk Contest — hardly any room for creativity exists in a hitting exhibition, and even the dunkers are now struggling to come up with new, interesting approaches that don’t border on the absurd.
It seems like for a lot of us, we watch these pseudosports events just because we instinctively gravitate to anything related to sports, as though we can’t go a day without watching competition. Networks have sort of figured that out, and so there isn’t an urgency to make any change. It’s OK if not downright healthy to take a step back for a day or two in the middle of the summer from sports. I don’t plan on watching the All-Star Game either, mostly out of protest to the “It Counts” garbage. And I won’t watch the ESPYs either.
Then when real baseball returns on Friday, I’ll go back to appreciating the sports stuff that matters. In the meantime, I think that despite avoiding the exhibition stuff masquerading as important, I’ll be OK.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.