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Don't Take Me Out to the Ballgame
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Fans around you jabbering loudly on cell phones...huge electronic scoreboards screaming out commands...mindless raucous music between innings, even between pitches...

What next can we expect at the old ballgame? What new distraction? Idiots tapping away on computers.

They're already doing it at the home of the San Francisco Giants and in a few other baseball stadiums and soon will be doing it in who knows how many others.

Why, one Giant fan exclaimed to a reporter, "the ability to go online and check your e-mail is wonderful!" Was he watching the Giants game being played in front of him? Of course not. He was "downloading photographs as we speak."

The Giants have outfitted their appropriately named SBC Park with high-speed wireless access points that enable fans with laptops or hand-held computers to log onto the Internet from anywhere in the place.

So far, the Giants aren't charging for the service. That, however, is undoubtedly a temporary thing, given the gouging proclivities of major league teams that have made attendance at their games outrageously expensive as well as distractingly noisy.

Major League Baseball, of course, is not the "cheap family entertainment" that team owners are forever claiming it to be. The average family of four lays out more than $150 per game for grossly overpriced tickets, parking, food, drink and souvenirs.

At those prices, you'd think they might at least allow fans to enjoy the games without distraction. But, no, there are, among other noisy, flashy sideshows, those screaming electronic scoreboards telling you when and what to cheer, showing you everything up close, larger than life.

Instant replays; highlights from other games, in other places; endless statistics; dot racing and other simple-minded games, even commercials. All that and more flashes across the giant screen, frequently accompanied by that ear-splitting recorded music blasting at you from stadium loudspeakers - very loud loudspeakers.

The Giants are hoping to use the Internet connections to rake in even more money from sales of hot dogs, beer and such. They're planning to add features to their system that will enable fans to order food online. And once they do it, you can be sure other teams will do it too.

Actually, though, that could lessen the distractions. For it might at least slow the unending stream of hungry and thirsty fans that moves up and down the aisles directly across your field of vision throughout games, moving, constantly moving.

And if you'll pardon me for saying so -- and you probably won't -- there's the added distraction of kids. You also can count on them to do a good job of drawing your attention from the game.

Bang! Bang! Bang! A tiny tyke is pounding out a tune with his feet on the back of your seat. Or he and other little ones in rows in front of you jumping up and down and running back and forth, paying no attention whatsoever to the game.

I'm sure there are at least some of you who may not find it particularly exciting, either, to have to listen to fans exercising what they've been repeatedly told is their inalienable right -- if not their patriotic duty -- to courageously shout insults at far-off players who can't get back at them.

All that, and now computers. It's enough to finally turn me into a couch potato, watching baseball strictly on television. It's virtual baseball, sure. But it's inexpensive, and except for the easily zapped commercials, it's quiet, distraction-free baseball.

Copyright Dick Meister