In modern baseball, I'll happily take the bat flips and celebrations and death of most of the unwritten rules, but one thing I don't want is for the game to be sped up.
This seems to be commissioner Rob Manfred's main objective, unfortunately. From pitch clocks to limiting mound visits to the goofy free runner on second base in extra innings, the man is on a mission to make baseball faster. But I love baseball in part because it is slow.
Increasingly, that feels like the antithesis of almost every other area of my life. Supposedly, the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds from 12 in the last decade or so, and generally that shrinking is attributed to technology and the way we use it. We're able to access information much more quickly than ever before, we can get things a lot faster than ever before, and we can know what's happening around the world while it's taking place.
These are good things most of the time; I like being able to find out what the weather forecast is going to be in a few seconds, or being able to order and have food delivered quickly all through an app, or finding out that a player is being traded from one team to another right as it's happening (once upon a time I'd look at a newspaper boxscore and say, "Wait, he plays for them now?").
But we also know speeding up the pace of life has a lot of drawbacks too. In April 2020, I read John Mark Comer's book "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry" because one of the things I saw in myself during the first few weeks after Covid forced us all to slow down was how hurried I had been feeling. A year ago, it was easy to embrace the idea of eliminating hurry, but now as things are opening up and life is pointing toward normal, I'm finding that it's easy to slip right back into a pace of life that's too quick.
I did learn from Comer's book that a lot of being unhurried comes from planning ahead. Ernest Hemingway was able to do so many different things with his life because he was good at planning even his leisure time. For me, the times I feel most hurried are in the granular moments. I hate feeling rushed when I'm getting ready in the morning, for instance, so I have to plan ahead and prep some things the night before.
I think it's good for us to be more assertive about our attention and our schedules. It's good to have to slow down sometimes, and it's good to plan so that you can slow down. Baseball has built-in pauses throughout the game that give us a chance to stop and do nothing. Although these days most of us will just use that time to check our phones, maybe it's a helpful nudge to let down time just be down time.
One of my favorite memories as a fan at a game was about five years ago, when the guy in the seat next to me turned and asked a simple question of strategy. "Do you bunt here?" he said as the pinch-hitter was warming up in the on-deck circle. It wasn't long, but we had a few moments to consider what we thought should happen next. That question has stuck with me for years because I love the way the moment gave two strangers something to mull over, and because the pace of the game allowed us to talk about it.
There's a great article in TIME magazine from 2018 that argues that baseball's slowness is actually its best asset because it teaches longer attention spans and can serve as the antidote to the pace of modern life. We don't need to slow everything down, but I think baseball is valuable in the way it stands in contrast to a life of nothing but hurry.