By Jonathan Leshanski and Laura Nist.
Why does MLB feel the need to provide entertainment to the point of distraction? Perhaps it is just me, but I am really tired of some of the nonsense that goes on at Major League ballparks any time there is a stoppage of play. I realize that I can’t speak for everyone but I think that much of what happens in between innings and during pitcher changes is a distraction from the game and sometimes causes a trip to the ballpark to become a test of endurance.
Maybe I am crazy but I go to the ballpark to enjoy a beautiful day or evening, cheer for my team, enjoy the game, and to escape the endless media barrage that comes from television. Over the past decade that has become more and more difficult to do at many ballparks. Videos and music have become standard fare at ballparks, which themselves are not a distraction but they seem to be played at a decibel level that we would never tolerate at home and some teams seem to have a lack of comprehension of that. It has reached a point at Shea Stadium where I absolutely loathe sitting in my seats any time an inning ends - because it is so loud that you can’t even hear something with headphones on. I know several fans that prefer to watch games on TV to avoid feeling beaten down by the noise.
After visiting many ballparks, both Major and Minor league as well as attending innumerable sporting events of other types, it has become obvious that MLB (and the NY Mets, in particular) manage these time killing interludes far worse than anyone else. Because of this, watching a ballgame in some venues becomes a very trying experience at times. It is not true everywhere and many fans don’t even notice or think about the entertainment or the noise, but some of us are offended when instead of being able to talk with other fans or even with whoever you came to the ballpark with, you are blasted with rock music (which under ordinary circumstances I enjoy) and assaulted with videos every time the game pauses for even a few seconds.
When going to a ballgame becomes work and your enjoyment of the evening and your time at the park begins to decline then it is time for everyone to speak out. I don’t mind some music and I don’t even mind the videos and inane things like computer car races when they are not obtrusive. However in many parks the line is crossed regularly.
My biggest question would be how does the game itself benefit from all of this? The organ music adds to the emotions of the game and even playing introductory music for each player does not detract from the game. I understand that the team makes money from the sponsored advertisements and games, but why should I, or anyone else, have to be assaulted by music from loudspeakers essentially non-stop during every break in the game?
The argument for between innings entertainment is fine, although perhaps it is a matter of the type of entertainment and the manner in which it is delivered. Some teams particularly Atlanta and Philadelphia have managed to keep these distractions from becoming annoying. They still have them, but it’s not as undesirably noticeable and because of this fans actually enjoy them and almost still pay attention. Perhaps the Philadelphia fans are luckier than most as the Phanatic is a favorite of almost everyone and keeps people distracted in between innings. In my experience, watching a game at the Vet is a pleasure where you can talk and actually focus entirely on baseball.
I have been told that the video entertainment is for the younger fans and to keep them interested in the game. In my opinion, kids, particularly those old enough to learn and understand the game, are just distracted by all of this. All of the new ballparks have plenty of attractions for families such as swimming pools, Ferris wheels or arcades, and baseball related games. Pacific Bell Park even has a fan lot, sponsored by a major advertiser, which includes such things as a large slide and a miniature version of the field, where kids can run the bases and measure the speed of their pitches. In a way, this brand of entertainment allows the younger fans to enjoy the game more and does not bother the more serious fans that actually go to the ballpark to see a baseball game.
Other teams have done good things too – Philadelphia has the “Wall of Fame”, which is a display recognizing the greatest Major League baseball players to play for Philadelphia teams, including the Phillies and Athletics. Yankee Stadium has Monument Park where they have honored the greatest Yankees with the construction of monuments and plaques at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have also included a special walk honoring those Yankees who have their uniform numbers retired. This type of entertainment adds to the game by sharing the history of the teams and the players; it is something that everyone can enjoy at their own leisure and it is certainly not distracting or obtrusive.
If I would implore teams to do one thing, it would be to look at the form of entertainment that is being provided at games. Is the entertainment a nuisance in that it takes away from the game or is it subtle and enjoyable? At the very least, turn down the volume. When your fans begin to dread the time between innings you are pushing them to spend their entertainment dollars elsewhere. Looking at minor league baseball, and hockey (two areas where entertainment is usually managed very well) for some examples would be good ideas.