I’m a lifelong New York Mets fan. Their life, not mine. I’m eight years older than they are, and usually much better at my profession than they are at theirs.
Then again, I don’t have to write direct mail in front of thousands of screaming fans.
Around the third inning, I realized why I rarely sit through an entire game. No, it wasn’t the leisurely pace of the sport; I like that, as it allows me to get snacks between pitches. And it wasn’t the fact that these uniformed millionaires can’t be bothered to run out a ground ball or use two hands to catch a fly ball. That allows me to vent some of my naturally-occurring anger by screaming at the television.
The reason it’s hard to sit through a whole game is the commercials. There are an awful lot of them during a typical telecast.
I decided to find out exactly how many.
So, between the top and the bottom of the third inning, I counted: five commercials. I also counted between the third and fourth innings: five commercials. I counted between every half inning: five commercials, although, to be fair, sometimes one of the spots was a promotion for an upcoming game. “Friday September 18 is Mets t-shirt night, presented by Affinity Health Plan.”
So even the commercials had commercials.
A little math revealed that, by the top of the sixth inning, I had already seen 50 commercials. Even worse, many of those commercials had appeared four or five times. I mean, if you’re going to show that many ads, how about a little variety…especially since some of these spots run for the whole season?
The game I was watching happened to be a low-scoring pitchers’ duel, so, of course, it was time to start making pitching changes because the starters had reached 100 pitches and their arms could fall off any second. Every time a manager trudged out to the mound, it triggered “a call to the bullpen, sponsored by Verizon,” which, in turn, led to five more commercials.
The Elias Sports Bureau (motto: “A statistic for every occasion”) is the source most broadcasts use for any stat or record you can’t believe somebody actually keeps track of. (“Yes, John, that is the first time in the last 37 years that a player wearing three gold necklaces has hit for the cycle with the hits in order!”) I did not consult Elias for this post, so it’s a total guess on my part that the average number of pitching changes made during a modern National League game is roughly eight. At least it seems like it is. And each one comes with five commercials.
So bottom line: if you manage to sit through an entire nine-inning game, you’re likely to see at least a 100 commercials. Or, more accurately, you’ll see around 20 commercials about five times each.
And that doesn’t include the sponsors of the starting lineups. “Today’s starting lineups are brought to you by Land Rover.” I guess if it weren’t for the generosity of Land Rover, there would be no starting lineups, and the game would be played only with substitute players. (And, by the way, shouldn’t Land Rover be sponsoring cricket?)
Then you’ve got the constantly rotating billboard behind the batter, the on-screen promos for other shows on the channel and all the logos plastered on every available surface area of the stadium.
And, of course, like most stadiums and arenas these days, the whole damn place is an ad…in the Mets’ case, for Citibank. But Citi Field has also been subdivided, with areas designated as, to name a few, The Pepsi Porch, The Party City Deck, and The Modell’s Mo’s Zone.
All the TV commercials leave you no choice but to DVR the game and avoid all news and sports content until you can watch it later with your finger firmly on the fast forward button. Of course, once you start doing that, you can’t help fast forwarding through the catcher strolling out to the mound, the batter stepping out of the box, the pitcher staring in for the sign and manager popping sunflower seeds in the dugout. Then do you really need to see all the foul balls, the weak ground-outs, the replays of virtually every pitch and the play-by-play guy talking about statistics that didn’t exist when you were growing up and that you still have no idea what they are (OPS? WAR? VORP?)?
See you soon.
*In case you were wondering, the actual shortest nine inning game in Major League history was a 51-minute affair between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies, in which the Giants, behind a complete game by pitcher Jesse Barnes, prevailed 6-1. Significantly, the game was played on September 28, 1919, before there were television commercials. It now takes longer than that just to watch the ads. And, by the way, Barnes was a fairly mediocre pitcher with a career won/loss percentage of just over .500, who nevertheless threw 180 complete games–or 62 more than were thrown by all Major League pitchers last year (and more than the career totals of the top five active pitchers combined), yet he managed to last 12 years with his arm still attached, probably earning less money in that span than someone like Max Scherzer makes in one game.