Thursday, June 05, 2008

TIme Series Problem

Disagreeing with former sports media colleagues is no fun. Agreeing with NBA Commissioner David Stern causes actual physical pain. Neverthess, on the issue of the starting times for games in the NBA Finals, Stern is right, while Gerry Callahan and John Dennis of WEEI and Phil Mushnick of the New York Post are full of shit.

Finals games start at 9-plus p.m. because that's when they the most money. Having graduated from preschool, I get this. The thing is, those starts are also optimal for the game's customers as well as the NBA's coffers. But greed isn't always bad. If there's such a thing as morality in sportsworld, which I doubt, the late times are the fairest solution to a thorny problem, at least in this series.

Sportwriters on East Coast deadlines covering sports events hate 9 p.m. starts, and they should. There's no time to do a bad job, let alone a good one, when the game's over. Writing 800 words of English prose in 12 minutes can be stressful. I've done it many times, and it sucked on each and every occasion.

But Mssrs. Callahan, Dennis and Mushnick aren't covering the Finals on deadline. Two of them are talk show hosts who get up very early, but can always Tivo the damn game. As the Post's resident scold, Mushnick has no deadlines worth mentioning. So I'd like to remind the fellas about a few elemental facts of physical science.

The earth spins on its axis. This means, among other things, that it's not always the same time every place on earth. For example, let's pick two U.S. cities, Boston and Los Angeles come to mind. Boston is three hours AHEAD of LA in time. That is, when it's noon here, it's only 9 a.m. in LA. Or, when it's a little after 9 p.m. here, it's only 6 p.m. in Los Angeles, the shank of the evening rush hour.

This means that a 9 p.m. EDT start is the EARLIEST a Finals game can start that gives gainfully employed Southern California residents a chance to see the game, or most of it anyway. One reason Chick Hearn became a legend was that he was the only means by which Laker fans could follow the first halves of any games back East while they were trapped on the freeways.

Laker fans have the same moral right to see the Finals as those theoretical kids (New York kids, natch, what other kind are there?) Mushnick keeps wailing about. More, actually. Trying to serve all the people in a big country forces compromises. If those inconvenience East Coast talk show hosts, well, that's just too damn bad. They can always go back to razzing Hillary Clinton. No, wait...

When it comes to time differences and late starts, I tend to agree with the sports fans I met in Australia during the 2000 Olympics. They were universally appalled by the NBC practice of tape delayed broadcasts in prime time, and pitied and scorned the American fans so thin-blooded as to tolerate that practice.

"Suck it up, mate, and set your bloody alarm clocks," one said. "How do you think we see ANY sports from outside Australia?"


At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Anyone of at least moderate intelligence that has spent time listening to 850AM on a weekday morning has come to realize that, in any given situation, it's probably best to assume that Dennis and Callahan are full of shit until proven otherwise.

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Mike Knobler said...


Congratulations on being one of the rare residents of the Eastern Time Zone who recognizes the country now has more than its original 13 states. I shouldn't be surprised; I have admired your work since your days writing for the Phoenix.


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