Sunday, March 9, 2008

Baseball Saving Time

Daylight time has come earlier this year. It’s the result of a curious action by Congress two years ago that passed without any real debate nor any justification presented to the public. The extended daylight time was supposed to save energy and reduce oil imports but, with the morning commute starting before dawn, it’s entirely possible that the opposite effect is occurring. There is no hard data either way and Congress does not seem to care in the slightest anyway.

I think it’s time to start calling daylight saving time what it really is: baseball saving time. It’s no coincidence how closely the daylight saving time period matches the baseball season — no coincidence, because unless someone can offer a credible alternative explanation, it appears that the real reason for daylight saving time is to benefit the professional baseball teams. It takes a lot of light bulbs to light a stadium and if all the night games actually started at nightfall, the baseball owners would pay millions more for electric lighting.

It’s slightly crazy to turn a country upside down for the benefit of one small entertainment category, but daylight saving time isn’t the only concession baseball has received from Washington. Ask them to explain the logic behind baseball’s antitrust exemption. They can’t do it because there is no reason for it except that the Supreme Court one day decided they would cut baseball a break, and they made up a crazy legal theory of why baseball teams should be exempt from a law that applies to everyone else.

Baseball isn’t even that popular anymore. There was a time when it was considered the national pastime, but now it’s primarily a television program with an audience that ranks just slightly higher than the weather forecast. And when you look at it that way, it’s hard to say that it’s important enough to have us all jumping between time zones at the beginning and end of every baseball season. It’s not that I don’t like baseball. I suppose you could say I’m enough of a purist when it comes to baseball to think there’s something wrong with so-called night games being played in the late afternoon.

In case you haven’t guessed, I would rather do away with daylight time entirely. Forcing everyone in the Eastern Time zone to tune their clocks to the Atlantic Time meridian for half the year on the theory that it will somehow make them behave more efficiently goes against two of my favorite principles, individual responsibility and government integrity. And the other U.S. time zones are even farther removed from their natural meridians during daylight time. But realistically, the baseball people own Congress on this issue, and daylight time isn’t going to just go away anytime soon.

So as a first step in that direction, I’m proposing to change the name of daylight time. Let’s start calling it what it really is, baseball saving time, or baseball time for short. If we call it that, then after a few years, people might start asking, “Why do we have baseball time, anyway?” And then Congress might be persuaded to cut back on baseball time and eventually eliminate it completely.

Okay, I suppose that’s not realistic either. But however it happens, if enough people start asking, “Who really benefits from baseball saving time?” that’s when we’ll have the possibility of restoring integrity to the official time that the United States keeps.