Why Major League Baseball Would Make a Terrible Reality TV Show

The pacing is slow, there are too many games per season, and other reasons why MLB makes for bad television

BoredBaseball_Tim Shaffer_post.jpg

Reuters/Tim Shaffer


From: John Q. Executive
Vice President for New Programming Development
RTV Reality Television Network

Dear Major League Baseball,
Thank you for submitting your idea for a new reality series, Major League Baseball 2011, to RTV. Unfortunately, we must reject your concept. After carefully reviewing your idea, we believe that the 2011 MLB season would need to make drastic changes in order to be a successful on television.

There are potentially workable elements in your show. The Dodger family divorce in LA, and the Albert Pujols soap opera in St. Louis would make excellent reality show storylines. Derek Jeter's chase of 3,000 hits will be entertaining. Ichiro Suzuki, the rare baseball player truly alive to the vast, untapped potential of his sport, will handle the bat with signature grace and precision on his quest for an eleventh consecutive 200-hit season.

Nevertheless, MLB 2011 won't be good television. Not unless some serious, deep-rooted issues are addressed. Like a season that last for six months, running from March to November, with live shows broadcast from 30 different cities, 162 times a year, for a total of 2,430 episodes—not counting the year-end specials. It's massive overkill. Not even Oprah pumps out that much new programming. Besides, there's just something undeniably odd about the Boys of Summer playing their championship games in November. That's like a hockey league playing their championship in June. Who would ever be crazy enough to do that?

Another serious issue with MLB, of course, is the well-known drug problem. In recent years, a litany of MLB's best performers have had well-publicized battles with drugs—and not the fun kind of drugs, either. That list of performers includes perhaps the greatest hitter of all time, who's currently on trial for perjury.

Our research suggests that some fans still harbor resentment over the drug scandals. Certain fans are still angry about being duped, cheated on, lied to, flimflammed, hoodwinked and/or bamboozled by skeezy players and their feckless team management for the better part of two decades, and those fans are emphatically not in a mood to forgive the game just yet, thanks anyway.

Unfortunately, MLB's recent, and belated, attempts to clean itself up had the unintended consequence of making an existing problem worse. Namely, a high concentration of dead air. Today's TV viewers want lots of action. Yet, in 2010, the so-called "Year of the Pitcher," also known as "Year of the Drug Test," baseball saw steep declines league-wide in the average of runs per game, hits per game, home runs, and ERA.

You might think the lack of scoring would lead to livelier play. But, no. Despite MLB's own effort to quicken its pace, viewers will still be treated to the thrill-a-minute, edge-of-your seat spectacle of watching David Ortiz readjust his batting helmet twice between every pitch, or the sheer joy of watching C.C. Sabathia sweat. The average baseball game early in the 20th century was just under two hours. Early in the 21st century, the average game lasts just under three. Thirty of those extra minutes come from the TV commercials which pay to keep the lights on, grass green, and player salaries high. The other 30 minutes, however, consists of pretty much nothing at all. Again, we refer to market research, which suggests that a young, hip, plugged-in, 500-channel-surfing TV audience isn't very interested in watching guys stand around and scratch stuff.

Presented by

Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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