The Baseball Desert

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Virtual Insanity

Reading Jayson Stark's column on this week got me thinking about the ways baseball has changed since I first caught sight of it alomst twenty years ago. There are obvious changes in the structure and makeup of the game itself, but from the virtual world of The Baseball Desert it is radical changes in the delivery of the game that are the most striking and the most welcome.

When I think back to how I attempted to follow baseball in the late 80s and early 90s, it's amazing to think that actually I persevered for so long and managed to keep the flame of my blossoming love-affair burning for so long. But all that labour of love seems so distant now, thanks to the magic of the Internet. As Stark so rightly says:
There is still nothing better than a great newspaper sports page. But ... now think what you can learn anytime you want by launching yourself into cyberspace. Without ever leaving this site, you can check every box score (before the game is even over). Call up your own personal out-of-town scoreboard. Watch a game in a different time zone live. Locate a link to every baseball story in every major newspaper. Even peruse scintillating columns like this one -- and then vote on whether we're out of our minds. Sheez, is there any better innovation than the land of www?
Well, sheez, no there isn't. And for someone living so far away from baseball's heartland, the Internet is a lifeline to the game. I don't even need to go back as far as 1986 to realise how much things have changed. I can remember getting really excited about being able to listen to the 2000 World Series over my dial-up connection; now I can click on on any evening during the season and have access to live TV coverage of something like 95% of major league games.

The content that is out there for fans - be it games, stats, analysis or blogs - is staggering, and the way in which it is delivered to my desktop is something that will possibly never cease to amaze me, but what brought home the point today about the Internet was something that the ESPN article doesn't mention, and that is the way it connects people.

For those who live in the U.S. it might be hard to imagine following baseball in isolation - you switch on the TV and there's baseball; you open the newspaper and there's baseball; you go grab a coffee at work and there could well be someone wanting to talk baseball. What I really love about the Internet is that it gives me the possibility to have those coffee-breaks in the virtual company of people living on the other side of the world. So whilst pretending to work working hard late this afternoon in my office in the suburbs of Paris, I was able to carry on simultaneous conversations with Paul (in Portland) and Beth (in Boston) on the WBC, the Mariners' chances - or lack thereof - for 2006, the enigmatic Keith Foulke and the puzzling popularity of Olympic curling.

Virtual life just doesn't get much better than that.