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Facebook’s baseball broadcast was a vision of the hellish future we deserve

What is it like to watch a baseball game in the future? It’s terrifying for old people, that’s what it’s like.

I’ve had a Facebook account for years.

Facebook is more of a kid-picture-delivery service for me now, but before I was a full-time writer, I used it as a creative outlet, responding to memes and elaborating on my statuses at great length. I’ve sort of forgotten about it, but I used to be a heavy user.

I do a TV show for NBC Sports Bay Area after select Giants games, but it’s also broadcast on Facebook Live the whole time, including during commercial breaks.

The whole show was borne out of the idea that Facebook Live was an emerging market worth tapping, and because of this, I can put “Hella Famous TV Star” on my résumé and LinkedIn profile.

My career changed because Facebook exists and is heavily invested in streaming video. I have personally benefited from this strange, new world. So I really have no standing to yell at kids to get off my lawn.

But I watched the Mets-Phillies stream on the Facebook, and I would like to tell the kids to get off my lawn.

There are benefits to baseball streaming a game through Facebook. There are no subscription fees. It’s accessible all over the world. It requires an app or an account that literally a billion people already have.

So if the question is, “How do you make baseball more accessible to everyone?”, this is a fair answer. Facebook for everyone.

There was a baseball game between the Mets and Phillies, and if you had a phone, computer, or tablet, it was beamed directly there FROM SPACE.

This is much better than when people had to buy pager-like devices to follow baseball games. And because it was on Facebook, there were no disputes between DirecTV and Charter Communications to understand, and there were no additional costs. What are we complaining about again?

But these are all reasons why baseball on Facebook might eventually be good for us, the consumer. They’re not reasons why Facebook would give us free streaming baseball indefinitely, though. They would do that because they like money, and they would expect streaming baseball to make money, eventually.

Facebook bought the rights to this Mets-Phillies game for science, but if they’re still streaming baseball games in 10 years, it’s because they’ve figured out how to monetize it. If they continue this path, they would be competing against an entrenched system of baseball delivery that already seems to work quite well.

Cable is still an established power, even with the cord-cutting, and has never been more of a cash cow.

People who want to consume baseball right now generally don’t have any problems doing so.

If Facebook were to monetize baseball, then it would have to be a small part of a broader effort to become a television replacement. Check that, a TV/Amazon/Netflix/radio/ replacement.

They would have to convince the world that it’s much better to watch and consume everything on the same platform. That’s their gambit, I’m guessing.

Facebook can’t compete on video quality. It can’t compete when it comes to someone who’s used to sitting down on the couch and watching a recorded game on a 65-inch TV, and it can’t compete with the companies selling movies from a streaming service that’s already programmed into their cable box or smart TV.

It’s pretty late for Facebook to dive into that arena, especially when you consider that their current product isn’t meant to be consumed on TVs.

No, if Facebook is going to compete in the entertainment arena, it can compete only on accessibility and interactivity.

Accessibility is the biggest perk this experiment has going for it.

The promise is you can watch a game anywhere and use the app you’re already logged into and don’t have to pay for.

But convenience is only going to attract so many people. If they’re going to become an entertainment provider that’s economically viable, they’ll have to attract viewers because of the platform’s interactivity, too.

Friends, I’m here to tell you that this feature of interactivity is absolutely useless.

Imagine attending a baseball game, but having the power to hear 7,000 different conversations currently taking place in the ballpark.

Well, everything is moving too fast for an actual conversation, so nobody is really responding in any meaningful way, which means “conversation” isn’t the right description.

So instead, imagine attending a baseball game and being interrupted every single second by a waterfall of stray thoughts.

None of them will be especially, you know, thoughtful. None of them are designed to have any permanence at all.

It’s a torrent of bllllaarrrrgfh, here’s what I’m thinking at this very second, now you deal with it, it’s yours, take it, with each update coming right after the other.

Thanks, MLB Live. No, sincerely, thanks. I understood that was an option, and it’s a good one. But without the interactivity, what is this? Why are we here? Why would you watch a movie on Facebook?

Why would you watch a baseball game on Facebook? It would be another, lesser version of something that absolutely works just fine.

Tuesday’s game was an experiment in which we could watch a streaming baseball game with a spottier feed and clunkier production compared to what was previously available.

The billion-dollar idea is that you’ll continue to do it because you can interact with the rest of the world as you’re isolating yourself, and it will keep you from feeling so lonely. And I absolutely hate that it just might work.

It’s not like Facebook will ever dedicate as much time to every broadcast for every game as the networks currently dedicated to producing baseball telecast. What they have to offer is the ability to join the hive watching the game and comment along.

Earlier, I wrote this:

Friends, I’m here to tell you that this feature is absolutely useless.

But it left off an important piece of context: It’s useless ... to my grizzled dinosaur ass.

This is where the hellish future comes in, because it’s not useless or hellish from everyone’s perspective, and I’m scared it’s going to become the norm eventually.

Classic Norm. But for some people, this interactivity is absolutely a feature and not a bug.

This is how the damned young people like to consume their hobbies and interests now, what with their Twitch streaming and the video games and the what-have-you.

Imagine people spending their time by watching somebody else play video games, he grumbles while pulling up his pants. Except the joke is on me and the rest of the olds.

Millions of people watch other people play video games, and they also send comments like “OMG YES YES YES” into the world while watching them. And I get it! Those comments will reach more people than if those people stood up at a city council meeting and yelled the same thing.

When there are 80,000 people tuned into the livestream of a baseball game, that means there’s a chance that 80,000 people might see what’s on your mind right now, which is almost certainly more people than will read this sentence. Now imagine 8 million. Facebook can.

Go on. Try it. The stage is yours. What would you like to tell the 800 people who will read this article?

Hrmm. Well, again, it’s not for me. I’ve tried to get on board by using this article to replicate the experience of a baseball game on Facebook. Did all of these comments improve my writing? Did they make it more enjoyable for you to read? I have no doubt that some of you absolutely think so!

I’m less convinced. Seems distracting, and I don’t get the appeal.

This is our future. This is our hellish future. We will be incapable of consuming entertainment without a stream of chatter next to it. People will look back at articles like this and laugh at the dead people who worried about it.

I’ll wear it. I’ve turned into Abe Simpson yelling at a cloud, and I’ve become my own meme.

That doesn’t mean I’ll stop yelling, though.

That stupid cloud has it coming.

Also, I’m scared, and there are wolves after me.

You’re not wrong. Please slow down, future. Please.