The Critical 'I'

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Sunday, June 15, 2003

ABC FEELING SCREWED BY THE NBA
who's watching?
It goes without saying that nobody likes an NBA game unless the two teams combine to score at least 200 points. That's being proven out with the current NBA Finals, which are sucking fumes ratings-wise. ABC, which is in the first year of its valued NBA contract, is so disappointed in the lousy numbers that it's hoping for a forced Game 7 in order to dump off its advertising commitments as painlessly as possible.

We'll know after Game 6 tonight if there'll be another game, and if there is, the conspiracy theories can start then.

As an NHL fan, I feel better about my sport in light of this. Let's see, the NHL ratings have been sucking for the entire five-year run of that league's broadcasting agreement. Then, the first year the NBA gets on board the Mouse networks, their ratings slide. So it wasn't the NHL's fault for those cruddy ratings, it was Disney's! (Only kidding, folks; the NHL perennially has low ratings, no matter which network has it; and the NBA should recover from this next year.)

It's funny. It's always perceived by media reporters that the networks aren't happy unless there are big-market teams in the playoffs/championships. Note I said "perceived", as I don't think broadcasters care about that as much as reporters imagine they do; a big game is a big game, no matter who's in it. Of course, the performance by these hoops finals seem to confirm the lack of appeal of smaller-market teams. I think the level of play, i.e. lack of offense, has more to do with it in this instance.

Still, I always thought that, if the TV numbers are so paramount, they ought to just tailor-make the postseason to suit the networks. Just change the rules so that, no matter who gets into the postseason and who makes it to the championship round, just have New York play Los Angeles play for the trophy, no matter what. I mean, that'll make fans of the two largest markets in the land happy, and their eyeballs should make the network execs happy, right? The greatest good to the greatest number of people. Let's do it. Screw the competitive playing field! There are dollars at stake!

Update: Well, no Game 7 this year, as the Spurs beat the Nets. This set off a chain reaction of the following events: San Antonio enjoys its second NBA Championship; David Robinson, a 14-year NBA veteran and career-long Spur, retires a champion; the Nets miss a chance to make the Meadowlands/Continental Airlines Arena the home to two champions in one season (the Devils having bagged their Cup only a week ago); and finally, ABC execs hanging themselves.