Pace of play is a huge problem in the world of sports. In just 20 years, baseball games went from averaging 2 hours to 4. The last few minutes of basketball games take 20 minutes to complete and continuous overtime hockey in the playoffs are action packed for the fans of the teams involved, but drag on and on for casual viewers. While the sports section and sports in general doesn’t really change what happens in Saudi Arabia, there are some things that can be done that can make the sporting event a better realm to endure than what it currently is.
The most notorious offender of the sport fan is baseball. In 1903, the Boston Pilgrims (now known as the Red Sox) lost to the Washington Senators 1-0 in a game that took one hour and 3 minutes to complete. Now games take 3-4 hours to complete and that’s not counting extra innings. What happened? For one thing, in those days batters stood in the batters box and pitchers got the ball, threw it, got the ball back and threw it again. Nowadays pitchers take forever to throw and the batters dance around the batters box, slowing the game considerably. Nomar Garciaparra was the most notorious of these slowpokes as he stepped out after every single pitch to adjust his batting gloves. One way to help lagging ticket sales is to speed up the game. Establish a pitch clock and for the pitcher and dock a batter a strike for taking too long to step in or out. That alone cuts down 20 seconds per at bat. That alone would hack off 20-30 minutes of game completion. The biggest problem with baseball is they lost a generation of viewers by having 95% of their games at night. Unless it’s a world series game, most children should be in bed by 10 PM and most games don’t get over until 10:30-11. Any good parent is not going to allow their children to stay up that late to watch a regular season baseball game. Now that DVR and TiVo has been invented, what’s the harm of having more day games? More day games equal more fan interest because kids can go to a game, especially in the summer time when school’s out. Speed up the pitchers and hitters and cut down on night games, watch your viewership increase automatically. Minor league baseball is a little different. Usually the games complete within 2 -2 ½ hours but their problem is they are too children oriented. That’s not entirely a bad thing since children are the future fans, but when you make it TOO children oriented, you lose the 18-34 demographic. What do 18-34 year old men want, something cool! Well, you can’t really be cool when you have an on-field DJ telling the kids to hop up and down during a crucial half inning shouting in some poor old man’s ear because “I don’t care, I love it” is blasting over the stadium speakers.
Which is the perfect segue into what’s wrong with professional football. There’s no problem with game time as there are play and overall time clocks to keep the game moving. The problem is the stadium’s soundman continuously, relentlessly and needlessly blasting music AFTER EVERY SINGLE PLAY! Fans in the stands can’t turn to their left and tell the guy standing next to him “Wow that was a heck of a play” because some airhead in the sound booth decided to play the intro to Welcome To the Jungle for the eleventeeth time! Any rock fan likes rock music but not when they blast the same songs over and over and over again before and after every play. Baseball is notorious for this too but the real culprit is football and basketball. Unlike baseball, Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night Football is ok because not many teams play too many night games. An NFL team plays 16 games a season, 90% of them are 1 or 4 pm. Once in a while is ok but not every night like baseball. Football’s image problem is being dealt with so no need to go into that, although I will say NFL Commissioner needs to take Sgt Hulka’s advice and “Lighten up Francis!”. Roger “The Emperor” Goodell has a habit of excessively fining players and coaches for the most pedestrian of penalties and offenses. New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was once fined $100,000 for swearing on camera. Keep in mind NBA star Shaquille O’Neal was fined 35 grand for making fun of officials and NHL defensemen Andrew Ference was fined $2,500 for flipping the bird to the irate Montreal Forum. You mean to tell me dropping an f bomb costs 97.5 grand more than throwing up a middle finger? Heck I could take up a collection from Cask N Flaggin and Hurricaine O’Reilly’s to pay off the Ference fine. Most middle class individuals would have to declare bankruptcy if they were hit with a 100K fine. Profanity and football go hand in hand, which is why it’s the most watched sport since it caters to the 18-34 demographic mentioned earlier.
Speaking of Ference, there’s nothing really wrong with hockey other than the music blasting, night games and there’s not enough teams in Canada. Seriously, the USA really doesn’t need teams in Phoenix or Las Vegas and thankfully they were able to relocate the Atlanta Thrashers to a new version of the Winnipeg Jets. Canada invented hockey and its their national game, the more teams there, the better revenue they generate. American teams should have long standing traditions or a rabid market for the game because nobody cares about hockey in the Arizona desert or the predominately redneck southern states.
Last but certainly not least is basketball. They have a unique problem that only they have…..timeouts. In baseball anyone can call time but the umpires generally tell them to hurry it up. In football each team has 3 timeouts per half not counting injuries. In hockey a team is allowed one timeout per GAME. Basketball has 6 per half and most all of them are spent in the final two minutes of a ballgame. During Game 7 of the first round playoff series between Boston and Chicago in 2009, the final few minutes took TWENTY minutes to complete. Each team calling timeout and going to commercial made it a living hell to watch. They should cut down to 3 timeouts per half which would speed the game up tremendously,
Of course, that’s the problem. Less timeouts mean less commercials which means less revenues for owners and the league….can’t have that right? That’s the REAL problem with every sport is too many commercials, but commercials mean advertising revenue and no owner or corporate suit would turn that down. Bottom line is there are ways to speed the games up and cater to the right demographics, whether anyone chooses to do so is anyone’s guess.