In prelude to the glories of major league baseball, we have warned that the TV broadcasts be more about the game at hand and less of the science. The batting aver- age, pitcher’s record, and the replay that lend meaning to a contest have morphed into launch angles, bat speeds, route efficiencies, with blazing spectro-graphics that dis- tract and at times overload. Bring us the game, we said, not a physics lecture.
So far, so good, except that the MLB science hall has given way to the cancer ward, the cardiac clinic, the gut doctor. A televised game, especially a late one, frequently takes time out for a parade of advertising misery that no waiting room gossip could hope to match.
Irritable bowel syndrome has replaced the outfielder’s route efficiency. Hepatitis C has out-muscled the launch angle. Bat speed gives way to new and improved cath- eters.
Drum lines of fabulous pharmaceuticals and miracle tonics are announced with conviction and fanfare of a carnival barker. Foreign names and unintelligible spell- ings flash across the screen. Before us is grandpa draining three-pointers from beyond the driveway arc, or grandma in waders, landing a 10-pound trout from the rapids of a mountain river – all with lilting music in the background. Mom and dad, fresh from those dueling bathtubs of ED days, now play rugby with the kids in the back yard. They are free of the fear of stroke or a sudden onset of incontinence.
Who wouldn’t want a better life, or a chance to live longer? the ads ask.
The answer comes as the game, tied, heads to the bot- tom of the 9th: We want that better life, but it comes with “possible” side effects, afflictions that may come with the ad’s miracle cure: Lung rot, liver failure, kidney tumors, blindness, halitosis, heart failure, stroke and ulcers only begin the list.
As the 9th begins, as viewers at last process the differ- ence between on-base percentage and slugging average, they are told to nag their doctors about Miracle Pill, the way to a better life.
The way to a sensible life is the mute button. Let base- ball be baseball, let viewers be fans, and let doctors be doctors without all the pharma worshiping. Television may have brought technology to baseball, but the sport can do without the wild pitches for new and improved snake oil.
‒ JOHN MARSHALL