Boyd's World-> How the Internet Made Me an Even Bigger Fan About the author, Boyd Nation

How the Internet Made Me an Even Bigger Fan

This is an article written for the 2001 Mississippi State baseball game program.

Part of the beauty of baseball is that it can appeal very strongly to different sides of the human spirit. There's the aesthetic side -- the beauty of the game and the setting, the excitement of the competitive struggle, the unpredictability of it all. Then there's the analytical side. More than, perhaps, any other sporting event, a baseball game lends itself to being picked apart and held up to the light after the fact, because each play is an individual act with a specific measurable outcome. When you add to that the fact that the game is less predictable than other major sports (the best baseball teams at any level tend to manage lower winning percentages than comparable teams in other sports, for example), you have a game that makes some of us want to take it apart and figure out who's really best, and why.

The aesthetic side of the game has always been easily available for college baseball fans, as any devotee of the Dudy Noble experience can testify. A warm spring day spent watching a game through the barbecue smoke watching a tight game between players who haven't been through spots like this enough to become jaded by it is an experience that those of us lucky enough to have been part of it will always cherish. Likewise, although less well known to Bulldog fans, the joy of watching players at a small-college game work at their craft in virtual obscurity knowing that this is the last level that they will reach, but playing for the sheer joy of the game just because it's there, can be quite fulfilling.

The analytical side of the game, however, has always been a bit harder to access for the college fan who was interested in it. While there were some statistics available, especially for local teams, there was no real means for the average fan to find out about the game on a national scale. There were a few national publications, but they tended to focus on fuzzy player profiles or stories about the coach's love of pasta rather than on any sort of actual team evaluations. Even something as simple as getting scores from around the nation was difficult.

Somewhere during the 1990's, though, the Internet escaped from the lab, and the possibilities for the experience of being a college baseball fan have expanded greatly. We're not all the way there yet -- one of the great rules of the Internet is that information doesn't manufacture itself, so there are some things that are still hard to find -- but it's now possible to find a score for virtually any game that's of interest in a timely manner, many teams and conferences have large amounts of information published about them, and some more detailed analysis projects have begun.

In addition to the huge amount of information made available on the World Wide Web -- most Sports Information Directors have fallen in love with the Web as a means of dissemination, some of the traditional media outlets have taken advantage of the timeliness of the Web to expand their coverage, and there are quite a few individually-produced sites out there like mine which are done just for the love of the game -- there are countless mailing lists and newsgroups out there that provide avenues for discussion of all areas of the game, everything from rooting for the home team to discussing what's going on around the nation.

Not everyone is looking for that analytical piece, of course, and the Internet can help those out who just want to appreciate the game as a whole or hear human interest stories -- I know of at least one relative of an MSU player, for example, who followed his entire career from overseas by making use of the MSU mailing list.

My own experience in Internet publishing began when, during the stereotypical slow afternoon, I started a discussion of a rating system for team strength I had been thinking about for some time. That idea has grown into a full-scale ranking system for all 282 Division I baseball teams, a simulation of the ranking system that the NCAA baseball selection committee uses in part in selecting the field for the postseason tournament, an interest in historical baseball research, some numerical analysis of the best way to measure strength of schedule and the advantages that some programs have built-in, and a weekly column on the differing aspects of the game. None of this work required any strokes of genius, but it was all a lot easier to do because of the feedback that I was able to receive because of the easy communication that's possible on the Internet.

In the end, I think, that's the most distinguishing feature of the Internet -- the ease of communication and the freedom that brings. Sure, it was invented by us engineers, so there's plenty of material for that analytical side that I talked about, but in the end it's all just information, and that information is being passed around because someone has something to say, and someone else wants to listen. From temporarily displaced fans (we all go back to Dudy Noble when we die, right?) to those who never miss a game and want to know how the Bulldogs stack up against West Coast teams, there's something there that you want to know, and, if you have something you want to say, there's someone there to listen.

If you're just getting started, come on over to my Web site at and look around; it's as good a place to start looking for what interests you about baseball as any. You'll find a copy of this article under the Old Dogs Report section of the site, with some pointers to other resources. If you can't find something you're looking for, drop me a line. Mostly, though, I just hope you'll find the Internet as good a way to enhance your enjoyment of the game as I have.

For the resources referred to above, head on over to The Junk Drawer here at Boyd's World; you'll find several lists of links to just about all the college baseball stuff I know about on the Web. To contact me, just follow the author's link at the top or bottom of any of my pages.

Boyd's World-> How the Internet Made Me an Even Bigger Fan About the author, Boyd Nation