In a nod to annual complaints from fans on the East Coast who have jobs and/or children, Major League Baseball and FOX have announced a change to the starting times of World Series games. The pregame show will now begin at 7:30 p.m. EST with the first pitch coming shortly before 8 p.m. Bud Selig and the TV executives are pretty proud of themselves.
"Our goal is to schedule games so the largest number of people can watch, and FOX has gone to an enormous amount of effort to make this happen," Selig said. "It's been a great joint effort between the two us." ... "World Series games have been running longer," FOX Sports president Ed Goren said, "and we made the adjustments with the acknowledgement that young kids can only stay up until a certain hour."
If they haven't dislocated their shoulders patting themselves on the back, there's a few questions that are still of interest about the start time of World Series games.
Does a half-hour really make that much difference to kids who aren't going to see the end of the game anyway? Maybe they'll go to sleep an inning later when all is said and done, but if the idea is to cater to young kids wouldn't playing more afternoon games be a better idea? That doesn't work, though, because there's less money to be made during day games, which also explains why they won't just junk the pregame show and shorten commercial breaks if shorter games were actually part of their plan.
There's also the whole question of how much these late games really inhibit young fandom. You've got to be in your 30's to actually remember World Series games that were played during the day, and baseball seems to be doing just fine from attendance and fan interest levels. Carlton Fisk's homer, Bill Buckner's error and Joe Carter's walkoff, to name three memorable World Series moments, happened well into the night and interested parties seem to have found a way to watch all of those games.
Unless, of course, they just saw them the next morning and time has changed their memories to remember watching them as they happened. Either way, it's done nothing to damper enthusiasm for the game of baseball.
Finally, what happens if the World Series features the Dodgers, Angels, Rangers or any other team that doesn't play in the Eastern time zone? Fans have to skip work to go to games, or leave after lunch, if they want to actually attend these games that MLB seems to think are only watched east of the Mississippi River. Just for kicks, imagine if they were starting a Yankees or Red Sox World Series game at 4:45 on a weekday and the response it would bring from the working crowd in those cities.
All of that said, a half-hour earlier is a half-hour better for a lot of people, so kudos to the suits for that. Let's just not go overboard with the congratulations.