Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The World Series: FOX on a Chilly Night

The FOX on a Chilly Night

Maybe baseball is the "national pastime". Maybe the history, execution, and complexities of the game do indeed mean that studying it can tell you a lot about life in the USA. Maybe millions of people really like to watch it. That does not mean that media moguls should feel free to put it before a mass audience for their own benefit on late October evenings, no matter what the weather is like.

The telecast of last night's Game 5 of the World Series might have been frustrating for many reasons: e.g. two top groups of youthful athletes were playing a summer game in the mud in a cold driving rain, or your team wasn't winning, or there were too many long commercials, or the commentary was of an uneven quality to name a few. But it may end up having one positive result: the TV presentation laid bare for the country to see the influence of the commercial media in determining what we get to see, how we see it, and when. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the game and a shred of integrity would have made sure the game was not played when it was. Even leaving aside the obvious profit driven absurdities such as endless playoffs during the post season, the specifics of last night's game still left the moguls some room for rational decision making.

They knew it was going to rain. They knew the rain would continue all night. But they persisted in going ahead with the game at the scheduled late evening hour with no plan for what to do if the conditions became impossible. If the umpires had been the ones truly in control, the game would have been suspended or called off long before MLB officialdom finally agreed to do so. Commissioner Bug Selig's performance at the post game press conference was a major embarrassment for major league baseball as he fielded even the lowest level questions with apparent anguish and surprise. The TV audience had already been treated to the spectacle of watching some of the game's best players trying, on a cold, wet night, to catch, throw and hit a small sphere that is supposed to be bone dry (in fact whether or not a pitcher is applying a small dab of moister to the ball after wiping his brow or licking his finger tips has caused protracted controversy over the years) on a field that is supposed to be bone dry.

All right. Maybe in the grand scheme of things none of this really matters. Maybe this is just a rant from a Philly fan. But perhaps we can draw some rational conclusions--or at least inferences--from all this. If the mass media moguls routinely conduct their other (maybe more weighty) business with the same self serving, cavalier attitude toward the American people that they displayed yesterday towards baseball fandom, not to mention toward the players--and why should we assume otherwise?--then we really do have a huge struggle ahead of us to bring them to heel, or at least to make them responsible for telling the truth rather than trying to invent their own reality and sell it to the rest of us.

Ben Sears