NESN has had more than a few pathetic bonus features over the years geared towards increasing viewership or keeping viewers tuned to that night's Red Sox game. Over the years, there has been a dating show, segments on ballpark food, the Wally Wave, having the always-taciturn Jerry Remy answer questions submitted via Twitter - and several others that I have wonderfully blocked from my memory. (I've written about NESN's problems in the past.)
While this latest gimmick is no less pathetic than any of the others, it is also (I grudgingly admit) almost clever.
"Stay In The Park" promises viewers a look behind the scenes at what goes on at the ball park between innings. But rather than NESN's other behind-the-scene segments from a couple of years ago - which often showed nothing but empty concrete-walled hallways (the showing of which often caused NESN to miss pitches from the actual game being played) - this one is being run in small boxes on the screen during commercials.
Of course, anyone who has ever been to a baseball park knows what happens between innings. Some players run off the field and mill around the dugout, other players run onto the field and start throwing a ball around, a couple of guys grab bats and batting helmets and walk to the end of the dugout or out to the on-deck circle, a pitcher throws about eight warm-up pitches ... It's the same thing every half-inning, for every game of the year, and it's not exciting. (And if anything does happen, we get some replay of it when the next inning starts, anyway.)
"Stay In The Park" is nothing more than a way that NESN has devised to get fans to watch commercials that they would otherwise avoid either by flipping the channel or leaving the room between innings. The supposed allure of seeing this secret ball park stuff keeps fans' eyes on the screen during the commercial break.
Plus, we get Don Orsillo's and Jerry Remy's obviously scripted, faux-excitement over the debut and subsequent wonderfulness of this new distraction: "You know, Jerry, last night's special presentation of what goes on between innings here at the park was so well-received, we are doing it again tonight!"
The most important aspect of the game is the game. Yet NESN's producers (and Red Sox management) have yet to figure out the simple fact - or have little confidence in that fact. Instead of making the game more enjoyable to see - showing every pitch, showing the action of each play - they have larded up the broadcast with gimmicks that add nothing to the broadcast's enjoyment and actually cause fans to miss parts of the game. (At the park, we get mindless music and noise and commercials instead of the wonderful sounds of the game being played.)
For most fans, these televised distractions must be tolerated. We have no choice if we want to watch the Red Sox. At least for fans watching via MLBTV, we get the usual "commercial break" card between innings and are spared this current nonsense.