Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals set a record for longest nine-inning postseason game. After four hours and 32 minutes, Clayton Kershaw put an end to the thriller and allowed a nation to go to bed without a case of FOMO.
The winner-take-all contest featured so many of the elements that make elimination baseball great. Superb pitching performances. Clutch, momentum-shifting hits. A palpable build-up of tension that lingered for hours. And most importantly, it featured two managers using all their available resources to keep the dream of a World Series alive.
It was a great sporting event, a damn fine game of baseball to be remembered.
But, dammit, the running time far exceeded both that of Titanic and The Ten Commandments and that is unacceptable — at least according to the joyless “sports games are too long” crowd.
These important people needed a more expedient outcome. They’ve worked too hard and sacrificed too much to sit through one extra hour of a baseball game between two teams that have been playing for seven months. How dare the players take their time during the biggest moments of the season. How dare managers Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts engage in strategic maneuvering?
The reason why this game took so long is because the teams combined to use 13 pitchers. The Dodgers did this out of necessity, having started Kershaw in Game 4. The Nationals did it because, well, that’s what Baker does. Managers wearing a path out to the mound in a late May game can be criticized as extraneous. Getting huffy about the practice during a deciding playoff game shows a disregard for the importance and appreciation of the moment.
Look, I’m a rational person. A three-hour baseball game is preferable to a four-hour, 32-minute one. Longer does not equate to better. But the opposite is also true. A shorter, less entertaining game is a worse experience than a marathon thriller. Does the “make sports shorter” crowd care about quality or solely fitting one-game viewing into their schedules?
This is not to be dismissive of some of the arguments. Football and basketball would both benefit from reducing the amount of television timeouts. Baseball should strongly consider ways to speed up the process of a pitching change.
It’s just difficult for me to understand how self-avowed sports fans seem so personally offended by the length of sporting events. Is it too simple to think that if they enjoy watching live games they shouldn’t mind when there’s more to watch?
Also, doesn’t this movement lose steam when it’s being made by those who will sit down and watch 12 consecutive hours of football on Saturday and Sunday? What does it matter how long the Steelers-Vikings game lasts if it will be followed by viewings of Packers-Lions and Broncos-Raiders later in the day?
There’s other hard truths this camp doesn’t want to accept.
They are already spending hours upon hours watching sports. On the whole, it’s not preventing them from accomplishing meaningful things. And they won’t alter their behavior no matter how much the average length of games increase.
Sports are supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to be a welcome diversion from real life. Longer events provide a longer window to slip into the escapism. To me, that’s not a bad thing.
Holding high-stakes contests on weeknights is unavoidable, especially in baseball. Occasionally they’ll go past midnight. That’s the exception, not the rule.
To co-opt a great thinker:
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you fall asleep.