Blaseball Offers Strange Hope Among the Chaos of Restarted Sports

Sports are an absolute mess right now. The National Football League is preparing for the start of the 2020-2021 season by bungling their COVID-19 preparedness so badly that even players who traditionally fall in line with commissioner Roger Goodell are speaking out on Twitter. The NBA is about to begin their season in the Orlando Bubble, which appears to be working in practice with fewer positive tests for COVID-19 than the league has had in months. Still, some guidelines have players scratching their heads and the impact of certain players not taking the pandemic seriously at its onset are having a far reaching effect on the overall attitude of the league. MMA and soccer aren’t faring all that bad if you can ignore the “Andrew Ryan But Make It A Red Mad Gym Guy” fight island UFC proprietor Dana White has constructed or the vacuous open air stadiums currently housing soccer matches. Major League Baseball has filled their stands with virtual fans. A broadcast yesterday showed the crowd changing clothes and flailing their arms in real time as commentators hesitantly noted, “they can even do the wave.”

And then came Blaseball.

I’m not even sure I should italicize Blaseball, since I’m not totally clear on what it is yet. I’m not sure the creators know, either. All I know is this week, Features and Trending Editor merritt k posted a link to Blaseball in our work Slack with the message “might be interesting for sports ppl.”

Days later, merritt herself, not a “sports ppl” in any meaningful sense, was bragging about her Breckenridge Jazz Hands and I’m stressed that my Dallas Steaks have the weakest front half of a lineup in the league. Danielle’s Hades Tigers made it to the first postseason. Blaseball is everything now.

But what is Blaseball? I can tell you what I know it to be so far and I’ll let the creators, The Game Band, and the league’s Commissioner Parker (noted by TGB as intern-interim commissioner) fill in the rest.

Blaseball is a web-based, always-running baseball….I mean blaseball….league featuring 20 teams across two leagues and two divisions within those leagues. The player picks their favorite team from the bunch. I went with my hometown Steaks but there are real winners here, like the Miami DalĂ© and Los Angeles Tacos, to choose from. Games take place automatically and feature distinct rosters for each team with excellent names like Inky Rutledge and Atlas Guerra. The players and team names “were already there,” according to the extremely cryptic responses we got from questions we asked of Commissioner Parker and The Game Band.

There’s a real Candy Box quality to Blaseball, not just in its web interface and passive nature but in its obfuscation of what the developers intend this to be in any longterm sense. The best example I can give for this is the Forbidden Book, one of three options league voters (you can buy these with in-game currency or earn them from your team making the playoffs) can choose from that take effect before the next season. The other two options are of a very clear, reasonable sports nature. You can vote to relegate the worst team in the league, a mechanic appearing in European soccer leagues more than American sports. You can vote to create more league parity. Or, you can open the Forbidden Book. Of course, the Forbidden Book is winning the vote by a large margin.

When asked about the Forbidden Book, Commission Parker asked in return “could everyone just vote for something else?”

You can bet on every game with currency and when you’re out of currency you can beg to the Blaseball Gods for more. They always, always answer your prayer. This way, the gambling can never truly stop.

With the first season coming to an end, I wondered what the future of Blaseball would look like. Are there going to be archives of records? “Yes,” Commissioner Parker replied, “but like I said I just started this internship.” I asked about the possibility of Blasketball, Flootball, and Sloccer.

“It’s plossible.”

Possibility is exactly what makes Blaseball so enticing. It’s not just a return to sports but it’s a promise of something strange, perhaps something even stranger than canned crowd noise, virtual fans, and using hand sanitizer every time you reach first base.