Designated Hitter: Double standard for TV playoffs

Allow me to rant for a couple of minutes.

I always find it interesting that members of the national media, both in print and in social media, are more than willing to beat up on the sport of Major League Baseball for scheduling playoff games for nights, while the National Basketball Association does the same darn thing.

It is a constant drumbeat during the months of October and November that the people who run Major League Baseball are crazy for having games go so late into the night.

Those voices in the crowd tell us that MLB is losing a whole generation of young fans because they cannot stay up late at night to watch the League Championship Series and the World Series.

Of course, the NBA does it too. All you read or hear from those NBA voices in the crowd is how the game has never been more popular, how the ratings are good, and how much fun it is to watch.

Now granted, when I was a youngster, World Series games were all on in the afternoon. In fact, I would rush home from elementary and junior high school just to watch the games.

For those of you not old enough to recall, the first World Series night game was Game 4 of the 1971 World Series between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Pirates won that game 4-3, and went on to win the series 4-3.

Compare last fall's World Series to this spring's NBA Finals. All seven games between the Cubs and Indians were scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., Eastern time. Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be played on Thursday at 9 p.m.

Of the potential seven games in the NBA Finals, five of them are scheduled to start at 9 p.m. The only games that are set for 8 p.m. are Game 2 and Game 6 (if needed). Both of those are Sunday night games.

So, who's complaining that a generation of kids can't stay up late to watch the NBA Finals? Nobody, because it doesn't fit the narrative of every sport allegedly overtaking our National Pastime in popularity.

If you believe that Major League Baseball is dumb for starting games at 8, instead of 7, then you should be just as incensed that the NBA starts games at 9.

If you are an NBA fan, you know that these Finals games take nearly three hours to play. That means a 9 p.m. start time on TV equals a 9:10 tip off, and the four quarters will end between 11:30 and midnight. That's usually a guarantee.

That being the case, youngsters will be up too late for school the next morning. And the difference between the World Series and the NBA Finals is that in May and June, high school students — and possibly middle schoolers — are taking finals and have to study. Nobody in the national media complains about that. They'll only complain that the World Series takes 3 to 3 1/2 hours to finish on a weeknight, and a generation of kids can't watch the end.

I won't argue or disagree with the idea of moving baseball playoff and World Series games to 7 or 7:30 p.m. in our time zone. I will also not disagree if ABC and the NBA agree to move their Finals to 8 p.m. television starts. There are NHL fans who also believe that starting the Stanley Cup Final series at 8 p.m. each night is wrong. If NBC and the NHL agreed to move them to 7:30, you wouldn't get a complaint out of me.

And one Boston radio host said on the air Friday that playoff overtime should be 4-on-4, 3-on-3 and then a shootout. He didn't like the double-overtime Game 7 between Pittsburgh and Ottawa.

I'm sorry, but you're wrong.

If you had your way, one of the most epic hockey games ever would not have taken place. Philadelphia beat Pittsburgh 2-1 in an Eastern Conference semifinal game back in 2000, and when Keith Primeau scored 152 minutes and 1 second into the night, it ended one of the most amazing nights of hockey I can remember.

It's Finals Week. So let's just enjoy them.

Reach sports columnist Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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