Batter Up in the Information Flood
I’m itching to get the new baseball season started today. I share season tickets for the Oakland A’s, and spent last evening placing the 81 home games into the order of 1 (the game I most want to see) to 81 (the game I care the least about). This is how my group allocates the tickets so that each person gets to see the games he or she wants the most.
The process got me thinking about how much less I know about every player in baseball today then I did when I was a kid. Back then, I was aware of the daily fluctuations in batting average of every player and ERA of every pitcher for the teams I followed the most closely, and knew within a few points those numbers for everyone in the major leagues. This was when the information sources were the daily game on the radio, the daily paper, and The Baseball Weekly.
So why is it that now, with the internet putting every possible statistic and news story at my fingertips, do I have less access to immediate hard data?
One possible answer, and one that I have to face directly (if a bit sorrowfully), is that my brain is older. Perhaps I simply cannot keep information in my head now even though doing so in the past was effortless. Possible, but let’s just act as we of the baby boomer generation typically do and simply ignore the passage of years.
Another possible answer, and one that I think has ramifications far beyond my love of the national pastime, is that I now know that I can get reams of information on every player at any time. If I can pull up the exact percentage that any given player is able to perform in any given situation, why go to the trouble of pouring over the box scores every morning?
Looking back, I think I stopped memorizing the daily box scores when The USA Today began printing their expanded box scores. It was not because the expanded box scores were too complex to memorize or that they were not interesting. It was that I started taking those pages from the paper every morning and carrying them with me. They were so easy to pull out of my pocket at any time that I never memorized the information any more. Later, the trend continued when box scores and extended line scores began appearing on the internet and I stopped carrying the pages from The USA Today in my pocket – and later stopped subscribing to that paper at all.
So I wonder – is there a 15-year-old kid out there pouring over the daily online stats and memorizing the games now the way that I did 35 years ago? Or is today’s generation focused on a higher level, assuming (as I do) that when facts are easily accessible then the brain is better utilized drawing conclusions than memorizing and ordering facts?
In any event, we find ourselves just weeks away from opening day. The sun is shining, everyone’s record is a pristine 0-0. Everyone has a legitimate shot at winning it all.
Ain’t life grand?