Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mister November?

It's tough to be a sports fan. Especially if you're sleep-dependant and you're trying to watch games and show up for work on time.
My standard answer for almost every question I am asked is either "television" or "money." Sometimes it's both. OK, most times it's both. But the point is that television and money dictate policy for just about everything, and sports is not only the exception but the rule.
It's playoff time, and the games have odd start times. Times like 7:57, 8:19 and 4:19 are common. One might wonder why, unless they know the secret "television" answer. The games have those unusual start times because TV ratings are counted in quarter-hour increments. When games start at those times, viewers are counted for the quarter hour before and after the actual time, so TV gets credit for a half-hour, even if the game is delayed by rain, earthquake, fire or flood. Advertising rates are dictated by ratings, and television is beholden to advertising to the point that they will inconvenience viewers so that they can make their ad revenue.
It isn't important to television that baseball fans are used to games starting at 7:05 EDT. What is important to television is that games occupy the precious prime time viewing area - from 8:00 to 11:00pm - when advertising is at a premium.
Not only that, but commercial breaks for network playoff games are at least a minute longer than those in the regular season, so when you multiply that by the 18 to 25 commercial breaks (for innings and pitching changes) games typically run about a half hour longer than they normally do. When the games start at 8:19, that keeps those of us on the east coast up until around midnight waiting for the outcome. If you're wondering if TV cares about that, the answer is no.
They also don't care about our plans for attending games, evidenced by the confusing start times for games. I have tickets for Saturday's potential game 6 between the Phillies and Giants. As of today, the start time is listed as either 4:57 or 8:19. Why? It depends on the outcome of the Yankees/Rangers series. If the Yankees win on Friday and live to fight another day, the Phils will be given the 4:57 start time, leaving the prime time start for the sacred Yankees. We are forced to wait until the outcome of that series before we can make plans for Saturday, because television is in charge of baseball, instead of the other way around.
I think it's about time for baseball and sports in general to tell television that if they want to show the games (and they do) then they will do so when baseball dictates it. That will put an end to the 5 or 6 day waiting periods between series so that television can get their weekend games. As it is, the World Series could potentially last until November 6, when game 7 would be played.
So much for Mister October.

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