It is amazing how strong the draw of spring training baseball can be. With an unscheduled day off from work yesterday, thanks to the latest in a seemingly unending string of snow storms during the winter from hell, I had the opportunity to do almost anything. I could have caught up on work, prepared for the upcoming CAA basketball tournaments, or turned on one of the 10 movies I keep telling myself for the last two months I'll watch out of my NetFlix Instant Que. But when I sat down on my couch, the television was already tuned to the MLB Network, and that was all it took to send my best laid plans right down the drain.
For some reason, which remains a mystery to me, I spent the better part of the next eight hours watching baseball games that don't even count in the standings. Heck, half of them weren't even live, they were rebroadcasts from the day before. They also were not well-played games. At one juncture the two teams combined to commit four errors over a stretch of just three half-innings.
There's a reason for the sloppiness. No one that's any good is really trying all that hard, and the ones that are busting their buts probably aren't ready for the Major Leagues yet. At this stage of spring training veteran pitchers are just building arm strength and tinkering with their stuff, while experienced hitters are still trying to get their timing back. Everyone's biggest priority is to avoid getting hurt.
And yet I watched this slop for almost 10 full hours on Monday. Why? The scariest part is the fact that I'm sure I'm not alone.
Each year people treat the day pitchers and catchers report to camps in Arizona and Florida like it's a national holiday. Clearly some of this excitement is out of respect to the game known as America's favorite past time. Baseball will always be a part of this country's fabric, but people seem far more excited about the season starting each year than they do about its close. The four least-watched World Series in television history have all come over the last six seasons. The passion for postseason baseball just isn't there among the masses.
So why do people get so hyped up for spring training?
Sadly, I think a big part of it is the weather. As I said, I spent pretty much the entire afternoon on Monday hauled up at home thanks to a heavy snowstorm. Temperatures hovered in the mid-20's all day, and so watching people sit in shirt sleeves on a gorgeous March morning in Clearwater, FL or Surprise, AZ was rather appealing.
They used to say that people watched the old HBO show Entourage because it was lifestyle porn. That's sort of the way it works with spring training as well. Especially for people from the northeast and midwest, spring training could be considered weather porn.
People have had enough of winter and they know baseball's arrival will mean warm weather isn't far behind. Until then, we will all do whatever it takes to keep our minds off of the worst winter I can remember. If that means wasting a whole day watching baseball that doesn't matter, so be it.