Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Word About NFL Ratings Beating the World Series

A lot of people are talking about the regular season NFL games beating the World Series rating head to head on Sunday and Monday night. A syndicated radio program the Fan listens to in the morning called the Bob and Sheri Show (out of North Carolina?) were having a field day with it and saying how boring a World Series it was and who cared. New York fans and blogs were saying that it was because their Yankees weren't in the World Series to draw the attention. To be sure, Boston fans felt the same way. As you have gathered from what the Fan has been hearing for the last couple of days, most of the conversation is far from rational.

So, okay, let's be rational for a minute. Why is it then that MLB can't beat the NFL's ratings even when it is a World Series? Personally, this observer thought the World Series was full of drama, amazing moments, stupendous pitching and breathtakingly clutch performances. The series involved two different teams which added extra interest. Why wouldn't anyone want to watch that? Perhaps the Fan can offer a few hypotheses.

  • If it's not mine, I don't want it. The Fan makes books for a living. Seven of the books this Fan have authored involve showcasing the oldest houses in a town and giving a history of the house and its occupants. The books are beautiful, well researched and mostly well received. But often, one of those town's residents will pick up the book, leaf through it briefly and say, "How come my house isn't in there?" "Well," the Fan stammers, "I did mail out questionnaires to all the house prospects and put an ad in the paper looking for nominations." The book flipper will shrug and say he/she didn't see anything. The big finishing line is: "If my house isn't in there, I don't want the book." Don't they have any pride in their town? Don't they find the history of their neighbors' houses to be interesting? Isn't that what the WS ratings show us? "If MY team isn't playing, I don't care." The networks show different college teams every Saturday. They can't always be the home team right? Anyway, that's one reason.
  • The Networks and MLB have shot themselves in the foot by insisting on prime time games that start at eight in the east. Those games do not get over until midnight or later. People have to work for a living. They aren't going to stay up that late if the previous reason applies. The Fan can remember people skipping out on work and school to gather around the radio or the black and white television to watch the World Series. Televisions were brought into the schools and we watched in assemblies. None of that is possible with how late the games are. Add to that the added length of advertising in between innings and you have a marathon on your hands.
  • The NFL could have been polite and not had any night games the week of the World Series. That would have been a nice gesture. But the NFL isn't nice. Never has been. Plus, if weekend games were played during the day, then you wouldn't have to worry about that. Fox could have put the WS on at 4:00 ET instead of a second football game.
  • The constant changing of networks each year and inferior networks winning rights loses continuity, foists lousy announcers on us and puts the games on stations not everyone in the country frequents. TBS actually did a pretty fair job of covering the playoffs, but how many households don't get TBS? How many people would actually think to find a game on TBS? Fox has had the World Series for a while now. The broadcasts are awful. Simply awful. Even a semi-conscious John Madden was better than Tim McCarver.
  • The gaining perception that baseball games are long and boring. It's bad enough that the print media says that kind of thing all the time, but when the television announcers focus on it, then the perception gets embedded in people's minds. Yeah, games are longer than they used to be. Put commercial breaks back to a minute and that would help. Take away some of the pomp. That would help. But focus on the fact that for all of the hype about the NFL, those games get pretty darn boring too. Touchdown, extra point, commercial, kickoff, commercial. NFL games needlessly drag on for longer than three hours too. And that doesn't include overtime games. Baseball is a beautiful game. Explain it. Celebrate it. Stop knocking it, Media!
  • Lingering doubt about the players due to the PED issues. A lot of people still feel duped and the media has taken delight at tearing those giants that helped bring baseball fans back. Those guys became heroes and brought new fans. Then those fans found out that it nobody liked their heroes anymore. Okay, let's move on to something else.
  • The pace of baseball simply doesn't reflect our society anymore. We are the McDonalds, one-hour drama generation. We want instant gratification and instant results. Baseball no longer fits the way we live.
  • There is a media bias towards largely hyped teams like the Yankees and others. If the media did a better job of hyping all teams, there wouldn't be such a drop of interest.

Those are the rational reasons this Fan can think of. Have we missed any? Either way, it's sad that the MLB and the World Series can't even out rate a regular season football game. But it's the sport the Fan loves. And it's the only game in town.


bobook said...

Baseball is a thinking man's game, pastoral and patient and sublime in its slow development. Does that sound like our society and our population today? Americans, mostly, are incapable of delaying gratification and rush to the violent and the vulgar. Football is America's game. It is more reflective of America's need for the immediate. Baseball, I believe, would become more popular if, in this persistently pushy world, it celebrated its relaxing pace. Emphasize summer and sunshine and slow play. Play some World Series games in the afternoon. Get kids involved. "Come to the game and let go of the world..." I know it's why I love the game.

Cliff G. said...

bobook has a point about the nature of the game. It is simple, balanced and has a long summerlike rythmn. All the things that the wild card and the postseason oriented regular season is not.

The wild card is not only bad for the regular season, the reason for its creation, the Division Series also hurts the postseason. 6 and 7 game LCS and World Series happen less often with the Division Series

Bring back pennant races, elliminate the Division Series and let the naturalness of the game flourish and we'll really have something to bring our kids to.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Well thought out comments, bobook and Cliff. Good stuff.