Baseball Breaks Sound Barrier

Not only is the globe growing warmer – it’s getting noisier, too. Deniers of these facts were not at the Triple-A Portland Beaver baseball game last night. Nicholas Carr, in his influential Atlantic essay, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” argues persuasively that frequent Internet use, chasing links like shagging balls in an increasingly remote outfield, disallows drinking deeply from the Pierian Spring. As Pope discussed in his “An Essay on Criticism,”

“A little learning is a dang’rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.”

But Carr’s argument is that we’re losing the ability to drink deep, what he calls “deep reading.” We agree, and not only that, but try concentrating at a baseball game these days. Ballparks have been getting noisier, and the noise louder, and the activity increasingly distracting, for some time. Why?

At the Beaver game last night, a balmy summer evening, the temperature at artificial turf field level a hot 90 degrees at game time, we settled into our seats behind home plate. The onslaught began, and we don’t mean on the field.

If the pitcher is not in his windup, the music, the canned noise, the unintelligible mumble of the ballpark announcer, the electronic sound bite gadgets, all fill the air, the pervasive noise preventing any kind of thought, shallow or deep; and count out the small talk between innings, a running discussion of the game’s progress, or any play by play commentary. There must not be a single moment of relative quite at the modern ballgame.

We recall an old Twilight Zone segment. A mid-nineteenth century cowboy is transported to modern day New York City. Never mind the many inventions that might startle him; it is the noise that proves fatal.

The quietest moment of last night’s ballgame came during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, a moment of peace as all rose and quiet fell on the field and the first purples tinged with pinks crept up in the sky over the left field seats – the song a lovely, unaccompanied and traditional rendition by a local vocalist. The rest was noise.


  1. Good ideas, Charles. You know, back in LA we used to go to Dodger games, and would take transitor radios and listen to Vin Scully call the play by play. A lot of fans did that. At one game, he asked, on the radio, for silence, and for everyone to turn up their transistor. It was a test to see how many fans had a radio with them. In the quiet of the stadium you could hear a low tinny sound as he kept talking. Vin Scully is to baseball announcing what Walter Cronkite was to news anchors – they are in a league of their own.


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