Four cups of coffee. A No-Doz. Go out in the cold air and slap your face five times.
You might think I’m talking about how truck drivers get through a run. Or how college students cram to get a major paper done by morning.
I wish. I’m talking about how you get through a World Series game. Baseball. You know. The sport that used to be about sunshine and lazy afternoons, and is now, somehow, about sleep deprivation?
Friday night’s Game 3 between the Dodgers and Red Sox took 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete. It started at 8:09 p.m. and ended at 3:30 in the morning. Weddings are officiated, celebrated, danced and cleaned up in less time. It’s nearly the length of an auto-plant shift.
By contrast, in 1939, they played THE ENTIRE WORLD SERIES in less time than this one game took! That’s right. Four games between the Yankees and Reds required a total of seven hours and five minutes — or 15 minutes less than the Friday night marathon. And guess what? They still used nine players, played nine innings, had three outs.
It was, essentially, the same game.
Yet it didn’t feature this quote from a player:
“I’ve had to (pee) since the seventh inning.”
Outdoor sports better under the sun
That’s actually what a Dodger outfielder, Cody Bellinger, told the media after the endless Game 3 outing. The reason he couldn’t, uh, relieve himself during the game?
Another thing we didn’t used to have to put up with.
Along with scientific swing analysis, relievers who throw one pitch, managers who think they’re plotting the Normandy invasion, endless commercial breaks, batters and pitchers who step in and out, off and on, back and forth, and, of course — because what is sports today without them? — video replays.
Now I’m not going to slide into a “good old days” speech. We all know the era of kids following the World Series by sneaking a transistor radio into school is over, partly because they wouldn’t get past the metal detectors. Also, does anyone still make transistor radios?
But I do want to say something about the ceaseless need to hold every big sporting event at night. There is one reason for this: Television. TV gets better ratings at night, when people are home to watch it, and better ratings means networks can charge more for commercials, which means they can pay more for the rights, which means the owners get more for selling those rights, which means the pot of gold is big enough to allow, after all, what is the most important thing in sports, that each player owns a Gulfstream jet.
There is nothing besides money driving sports deep into the night. But when you think about the actual games — playing them, which is where all of this begins — they were essentially a daytime thing, weren’t they?
How many of us, as kids, waited until 8 p.m. to go to a baseball diamond? How many of us waited until after dinner to start throwing a football around? The outdoor sports are eminently better suited to sunshine. And, crazily enough, it’s the outdoor sports that now go deepest into the night.
What would Schembechler say?
Baseball is the most ridiculous offender. But it is not alone. The biggest pro football games are now held until darkness. The best teams kick off after dark. (It feels like the New England Patriots play all their games under the moon.) And we all know the only thing more fun than a December afternoon in frozen Green Bay is a December night there, when you can actually, and this is scientifically proven, buy a ticket, sit in the bleachers, and be cryogenically preserved until next season.
Many of the Sunday night, Monday night and Thursday night football games don’t end until nearly midnight. Who can stay up that late? I don’t know the percentage, but it sure seems like a huge number of NFL fans have to go online in the morning to learn the end of a game they started watching the night before.
And to make matters worse, college football has bit on this approach hook, line and sinker. TV networks will now move college games to nighttime if the schools are having a good season. This is why when you buy a ticket for a game a month away, the starting time reads TBA (To Be Announced). Nothing like being able to plan your attendance.
And, let’s be honest, college football can be interminable, especially the second halves, since they stop the clock for first downs, and there are six available timeouts plus all the commercials, meaning a four-hour night game is hardly unusual — ending at the bewitching hour.
Bo Schembechler used to hate, hate, hate the idea of college football played under lights. He has been quoted as saying the following:
“We used to tell the TV stations that we’re going to tee the ball up at one o’clock. If you want to come down and take your little pictures, feel free.”
Oh, how I miss that man.
Baseball is biggest culprit
Still, nothing is worse than baseball, and the Fall Classic, which used to be a way to lure kids into loving the sport. Now it’s a way to get dads to buy espresso machines. I mean, really. Three-thirty in the morning? Yes, granted, that Game 3 was the longest in World Series history. But if they had started it mid-afternoon, at least people could have witnessed it.
What’s the point of starting games to have the biggest TV audience if there’s nobody but insomniacs left at the finish? How are kids ever going to form lasting childhood memories of their baseball teams that can morph into adult loyalty to the game? Could this be the reason ratings are down, or that attendance at parks was the lowest in 15 years?
Nobody seems too worried about that. There’s money to be made now. And the powers that be will tell you if play goes too long, well, that’s why the Lord invented YouTube highlights.
All I can tell you is enduing seven-plus hours of a single baseball game is too big a price to pay, even for a World Series.
Then again, unlike Bellinger, at least we could use the bathroom.
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Friday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.