So I'm watching the National League Championship Series, and even though it's midafternoon, I've gone from sitting attentively on the lounger to lying apathetically on the couch, and, of course, I drift off. Then—half awake—I see Ted Turner and Jane Fonda sleeping in their box seats at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Now, if you're the boss of the team and you're the First Lady of the Braves and you all are watching your own hired hands trying to make it to the World Series and you can't even stay conscious, what do you think is happening in countless American communities where we can doze off in the privacy of our own love seats?
Now I know why they call it the seventh-inning stretch—that's exactly what folks do when they first wake up.
Baseball always has been a lazy sport for lazy summer evenings, but lately watching games has been like standing in a long line at the supermarket: You don't know if you'll ever get to the front. Pitchers pause before pitching, batters pause before batting, umpires even pause before umpiring. Sometimes there's more spitting than hitting.
CBS's telecasts are starting to resemble telethons. The two-hour baseball game has gone the way of the double-header. (If teams still scheduled doubleheaders, they would have to include overnight accommodations as part of the ticket package.) The first five games of the National League series took 3:00, 3:20, 2:37, 3:10 and 2:52; the first five games of the American League Championship Series lasted 2:47, 2:58, 3:41, 4:25 and 2:51. Regular-season games already take too long, and in the postseason, the time between half-innings increases by up to 30 seconds to allow for more commercials for CBS. If the games get any longer, baseball's promotional slogan, CATCH THE FEVER, should be changed to CATCH A NAP.
At least CBS is wearing well this fall. In 1990 and '91 the network's coverage had the feel of high-tech home movies. This time—helped by the serviceable Sean McDonough and a tamer Tim McCarver—CBS has seemed more at ease during its telecasts.
But even some of the announcers can't go the distance. In Game 2 in the American League, likable analyst Jim Kaat was replaced in the ninth inning by Johnny Bench. Kaat supposedly had laryngitis. I don't buy it. As the game wore on, Kaat employed an increasingly gravelly voice—you know, the one you used as a kid when you would pretend you were sick so you wouldn't have to go to school—and the CBS brass fell for it. I say Kaat was simply tired of watching the game. In fact, several of my people in Toronto spotted him later that night at a karaoke bar.
The games are so lengthy that CBS assigned the husband-and-wife team of Dick Stockton and Lesley Visser to the same series so that they could spend more quality time together.
Heck, even Deion Sanders became so bored he actually tried to get out of the Braves-Pirates Game 5 by telling the Braves he had to go to another job on Sunday.