Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SMALLS TALK: Baseball Needs a 24/7 Show

Night in and night out, the world welcomes professional athletes into their homes. We watch them work, we dissect their skills, and we offer criticism and praise from the confines of our cozy couch. These athletes live their lives under a microscope - no stumble goes unnoticed, no blunder swept under the rug. For three hours every night, their lives are a public matter - when it comes to the diamond, rink, court, field, track, and ring, we know everything there is to know about these guys. But who are they really?

Sure we love watching our favorite teams play, but we want more. Every sports fan is dying for that peek behind the scenes - that all-access pass that welcomes you beyond the restrictions of regular television. What's my favorite player like? What does the team do at practice? Is the coach a good guy? Which teammates hang out together? These are the things fans want to know. We want to know the man behind the athlete. Enter 24/7.

HBO's 24/7 may be my favorite show of all time. During this series, a camera crew follows a team or athlete for a period of weeks leading up to a major sporting event. In the past they've covered the training of both boxers leading up to a prize fight, Jimmie Johnson's preparation for Daytona, and currently the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers in the weeks before their New Year's Day "Winter Classic" match up. Simply put, the show is awesome.

Whether I like or have an interest in the sport or athletes featured has become totally irrelevant. They could offer a behind the scenes looks at a Broadway Show or a TV Channel's news room and I would be glued to my seat. There's just something about knowing what goes on when the cameras aren't rolling that interests, perhaps empowers the viewer - to see everything that goes into each night's final product is amazing, your appreciation for both the game and its players can't help but grow. We start to feel a connection to those on display - they're no longer the untouchable stars we admire from a distance; they're human beings with families, friends, and personalities.

I know baseball has put out shows like this in the past. There was a series on the Giants after their World Series season, and the MLB Network had that show with the White Sox (The Club, was it?), but I can honestly say I've never seen or heard anyone discuss one episode of either of those. Why? I'm not sure, but I do know that hockey is far less popular than America's pastime and I can't go anywhere without hearing someone describe Rangers coach John Tortorella's craziness, or chime in on Artem Anisimov's "Snipe"celebration. This series has filled up the DVR's of both hockey enthusiasts and those foreign to the game, because whether you like hockey or not, you appreciate the intimate perspective - it's just great TV.

So baseball, figure it out. You've got a no-brainer idea sitting there for the taking. And don't get me wrong, I bet The Franchise was great, but the fact that I've never even run into a clip of it screams to me that it wasn't what it could be. So don't put this masterpiece on Showtime, or MLB Network, or any other channel where it won't reach the masses - hey, HBO's already proven they put out a hit product, why not give them a call? But this needs to happen - clubhouse banter, BP trash talk, mic'd up at-bats, mound visits, days off - I want it all.

So assuming this plea gets through to the commissioner's office and big Bud green lights the project, the next question is huge: which teams do we want to see? I don't think you could go wrong with any of them.

(I'm not sure which Big Leaguer has the craziest pre-game rituals but I'm 99% sure he's a pitcher.)


  1. So true! Just like the Belichick "Football Life", the only way to know what someone's like when the cameras are off is to keep the cameras rolling!

  2. I would like to see them follow the boston red sox so we can watch them eat chicken and get fat and not work hard.

  3. With Ozzie Guillen heading the ship and the addition of Carlos Zambrano to the rotation, the new Miami Marlins clubhouse has the making of some great television.

  4. I want to see some big league wives and girlfriends!