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Five-hour games prove need for shot clock in baseball

When a televised baseball game goes on longer than The Ring Cycle at Bayreuth, we enter a brave new TV world. Three hundred and ten minutes of New York Yankees-Los Angeles Angels in the murk of a New York October squall?

There are TV series that don't last that long.

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So, is it time for baseball to throw a shot clock on its televised product? Yes, yes... Usual Suspects knows all about the timeless 19th-century beauty of baseball, but the Yankees-Angels marathon was 30 minutes of gripping drama packed into 5 hours 10 minutes of stepping out, stepping off, stepping back and stepping around puddles. The 13-inning Yankees' win was a showcase for Alex Rodriguez's dramatic homer (Kate Hudson effect?) but the rest of the lads scored just six runs in that expanding continuum of innings? We can see it taking five hours to score 15 runs, but who in this busy wired world has time for seven runs taking up almost a third of their waking day?

We understand why the players draw out the drama. They have nowhere else to go. They are paid. But many of the people in the Fox audience east of the Mississippi were counting Serta sheep by the time the game mercifully concluded.

Also, watching so much wind, rain and cold at Yankee Stadium made the viewing survivors develop chilblains.

Is it so much to ask baseball to get a time clock on pitchers and hitters that obligates a throw every 25 to 30 seconds? Or that restricts the number of visits a catcher can make to the mound or tosses to first base by the pitcher? Or that finds a away to reduce traditional advertising segments between innings?

That tells the Fox producers, enough with the close ups in the stands of a boy and his father scarfing hot dogs. And, while we're at it, get a video and strike-zone system that takes complaining out of the game as it has done at Wimbledon?

Everyone else on TV is getting on with less is more. Before you lose any more of the generation with a 15-minute attention span, cut back.

Bobcat Alert

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All right, this is the last time we'll tell you. But after its brief hiatus because of "artistic" issues that nearly caused its cancellation, Prime Time Sports is back on Rogers Sportnet tomorrow. However, the full two hours are live on the East network only.

On the Ontario network, you will receive a recut version of lunchtime Hockeycentral, followed by a half hour of the Connected sports program at 6:30 p.m. The Western and Pacific networks, you'll have to consult listings, as they say.

Get your sunglasses ready.

Blackout Blues

A cursory look at the attendance for Saturday's 44-44 Calgary Stampeders-Saskatchewan Roughriders classic at McMahon Stadium Saturday revealed a healthy 38,623 ducats sold. This in a park that traditionally sees fewer than 36,000 in the stands.

So why was the game blacked out locally on TSN? (Especially since all the other home games had been shown.) Well, the Stampeders have added almost 10,000 temporary seats for the Grey Cup, and when they hadn't sold 90 per cent of the new total within 48 hours of the game, the plug was pulled.

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Which produced a deluge of complaints from couch potatoes protesting that the new attendance was an unreachable number for a market of a million people. According to Calgary president Scott Ackles, "It was our understanding that the blackout had been lifted. It was something we assumed had occurred. But it was brought to our attention only at the start of the game that there was a problem."

Too late, however, to allow the broadcast into the Stampeders' market (except for HD viewers who never get blacked out, apparently).

So who goofed? Looks like, between the league and TSN, someone saw the new capacity, saw the ticket sales and didn't seek any further input from the Stampeders. And when we assume ... it makes for upset TV viewers for you and me and the CFL.

"We're going to make sure we're on a phone call and solving our issues in advance from now on," Ackles said.

Toronto fans can only imagine people caring about blacking out the Argos.

T.O. A K.O.?

We switch you now to a TV advertising copy session this summer. "Hmm, how to promote the Buffalo Bills coming to Toronto in December? That's a tough one ... I know ... 'For the first time, Terrell Owens comes to town... T.O. in T.O.!' Will that do?... What do you mean, what if the Bills are trying to trade his sorry butt by then? Quick ... better add a line in there about "Even better, new pricing..." Side Lines

We don't think the message is getting through about concussions. On Saturday, Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor was shaken up on a jarring head shot. "Let's just hope that he just got a little bell rung and it's not his knee," says a concerned Bob Griese of ESPN. Yeah, you can always get one of them brain-replacement operations. But a knee. ... Love those college football guys such as ESPN's Eddie Robinson Jr. "You're from Syracuse, and they have a great college hockey legacy, you know," he said Saturday. Umm, the Orange don't have a hockey team, Eddie. ... Howie Long, asked on Fox how to fix his old team the Raiders: "Right after I fix health care, I'll get to that." ... Finally, a return to our call for brevity as Notre Dame and USC wait out an extended video review. "A long wait on this review," NBC's Tom Hammond says. "Has it gone all the way to the Supreme Court?" sidekick Pat Haden adds. Amen.

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