By Tim Clodjeaux
Yep, this is not your father’s baseball game.
When I was a kid growing up in Lafayette, Ind. with parents who – thank the good Lord – loved baseball, watching a ballgame was truly a wonderful family experience.
(At right, Bob Elson was a White Sox broadcaster from 1929-70)
My Dad taught me a lot of great things, and one of them was the art of multi-tasking while watching a baseball game. You see, in a typical summer night in the Clodjeaux house, our TV would be tuned in to the Cubs’ road game (obviously a road game since any home game in that time could not be played under the lights) with the radio dialed into the Sox game and the soothing tones of the “Commander” Bob Elson and the entertaining Red Rush. Mom only cared about the Cubs but Dad was such a baseball fan that one game wasn’t enough for him so if the Sox weren’t playing, he’d turn the dial to find the Reds on WLW or the Cardinals (with Harry Caray on the call) on KMOX.
To take his multi-tasking even further, if the Cub game ended first, he’d move to the kitchen, keep the radio on the other game and pick up his weekly copy of The Sporting News and read more about America’s Pastime. Of course, the multi-tasking always included the task of keeping a cold beer in his frosty mug.
I’m at a loss to think about what Dad would have to say about today’s media world if he were alive to see it. Sure, he’d love all the different games available on TV but I’m not so sure he would be caught up with the world of Twitter and virtual webcasts online.
My typical evening in 2013 finds me with a ballgame on TV – with countless changes of channels to other games between innings and pitching changes – and with my laptop on my lap (hence the name) and the URL pointed to MLB.com for live webcasts of other games. Of course, my cell phone is always handy for the quick check of other scores on the Yahoo Sports app.
Technology, indeed, has changed the way so many of us follow sports.
Monday night, though, I changed my routine. I attended the Rays-Rangers game at Tropicana Field with my colleague Kevin Sullivan and his good friend, Fr. Joe Hannon. (Note: Dad would be happy that I went to the game. Mom would have been thrilled that I went with a priest!)
No TV screen in front of me to change channels between innings. No laptop on my lap to follow other games. I only cheated once or twice and looked at the Yahoo Sports app on my phone to get scores of other games rather than waiting for the rotating scores to appear on the scoreboard at the Trop.
Many other fans, though, were cheating, so to speak. The Rays provide Wi-Fi in the Trop and actually encourage fans to partake in digital media during the game by posting the players’ Twitter handles on the scoreboard when they come up to bat.
On this night, a strange occurrence took place when a spectator leaped over the Rangers’ dugout and – dressed only in white briefs and black sneakers – interrupted play by running across the infield to second base. He was immediately and forcefully apprehended and escorted off the field by security, providing amateur photographers and videographers around the stadium the opportunity to snap many photos and videos on their phones and – as one fan directly behind us exclaimed – “gave me something to post on my Facebook page.”
For me, though, it was like a game in the 1960s. Well, except for the domed stadium, the jumbotron scoreboard with replays and the $8 beers. I could only focus on one game. I even found time to talk to Sully and Fr. Joe instead of constantly being diverted to other screens and devices for updates on other key games around the league. It was pure baseball, with a game that had postseason implications written all over it.
My Dad would have loved it and would have been very happy. Well, except for the fact that the beers now cost eight bucks.
Yep, it really isn’t your father’s baseball game anymore. Or, in my case, not my mother’s either.