We live in a world of ever-increasing impatience.
To a large extent, this is the result of technological “improvements”. It takes a long time to huff and puff up 30 flights of stairs in an office building. Yet how often do you see people in a high-speed elevator jabbing the “door closed” button if said doors stay open two seconds longer than expected?
Similarly, with the advent of turbo-charged hand dryers, who has time for those quaint low-powered models that take twice as long to dry your paws? And if Google takes more than a nanosecond to complete a search, we figure there’s something wrong with the Internet.
Indeed, you’re probably getting impatient with how long it’s taking me to make my point. Which is this: I figure a number of professional sports take so long to conduct their business that they’re bound to lose, or never attract, the attention of a younger generation accustomed to fast-paced action (think video games) and instant results.
I could pick any number of American-based pro sports leagues, which are collectively beholden to massive TV contracts and all the commercial interruptions they demand. Is there anything more maddening or interest deadening than the commercial breaks following a National Football League touchdown and then another TV timeout following the ensuing kickoff? I’ll tell you, the Netflix generation ain’t going to like that.
And with the growing American interest in world soccer, aren’t stateside fans going to notice there’s 45-plus minutes of commercial-free action per half? That is if you ignore the minute-long writhing on the ground from fake injuries or all the posturing that goes on before free kicks.
I always figured you only needed to watch the last two minutes of a National Basketball Association game, which in real time routinely takes 15 minutes to complete, given all the timeouts, intentional fouls and excruciatingly slow foul shots. Just put me out of my misery.
Given their low status on the totem pole, National Hockey League games do move along with greater dispatch. There’s nothing finer in pro sports, I contend, than playoff overtime, with virtually no stoppages for up to 20 heart-pounding, sudden-death minutes.
There are two professional sports which I figure are in particular peril for their tortoise-like state of play and potential risk of becoming irrelevant to younger would-be fans. One is Major League Baseball, where the average game in 2014 took three hours and 14 minutes to complete, with 23 seconds between pitches. Who needs a sleeping pill when you’re watching that on the couch?
A committee has been struck to speed up play, but we know what happens with committees. They spawn other committees. Expect a result in three years and 14 weeks.
The other slow-as-molasses game is professional golf. I know these guys are putting for a lot of dough. But they would do well to take one less practice swing, forgo plotting every swale on a green and, especially, heed my father’s sage advice: Miss ’em quick.
Just yesterday, I watched in amazement as an impending playoff was held up by 1) the disappearance of the players for the obligatory signing of scorecards (does any other sport in the world depend on the participants to keep score?) 2) the long cart ride to the start of the first playoff hole, on the 18th tee, and 3) the drawing of who-hits-first numbers and then hand shaking all around.
I know the biggest gallery is surrounding the 18th green, but there are millions more watching on television who would no doubt appreciate a much quicker dash to the nearby first tee. On this particular Sunday, the playoff went to a second hole, which involved an even longer cart ride from the 18th green back to the 16th tee.
At that moment—after all the dicking around of generally glacial play and riding around in carts to unconnected playoff holes—the play-by-play guy announced that TV coverage would be terminated for all viewers except on the west coast. Thanks for watching for four hours! Too bad we couldn’t show you the conclusion. Can you imagine the latest Super Bowl coverage ending 30 seconds before that fateful interception?
After all that golf inaction, I’m sure 18 year olds are signing up en masse for the Golf Channel. As for those of you who say these waste-of-a-day sports will never lose their popularity, I have two words: Horse racing.