On November 17, 1968, NBC made a crucial programming mistake that altered the course of entertainment history. With 65 second left in the AFL game between the Jets and the Raiders, NBC abandoned its coverage and went to its scheduled airing of Heidi, a new made-for-TV version of the classic children’s story. Shocked football viewers everywhere (except on the West coast) were deprived of the thrilling ending, in which the Raiders scored 14 points to shock the Jets, 43-32. The subsequent outcry signaled to the networks just how popular pro football had become, and to this day, autumn Sunday programming is dominated by and scheduled around the action on the gridiron.
Why do I bring this up? In order to protest the NFL’s current policy of cutting away from a 1pm game right at the end to show the beginning of the 4:15pm game. This makes absolutely no sense.
Last weekend, I was watching my beloved New York Jets botch and stumble their way through a heavily-penalized contest with the Lions. The Jets trailed by 10 with only a few minutes to go, but had just scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to 3. With two minutes remaining and the Lions about to punt the ball back, CBS switched to the pre-game coverage of the Eagles, which are the home-market team. I was forced to follow along on ESPN.com as the Jets kicked a FG to tie it as regulation expired, and then won the game with another FG in OT.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that even the most rabid Eagles fan would like to watch an exciting football ending, no matter who’s playing. There is something quite foolish about a policy that forces a network to cut away from a thrilling ending in order to show the last of the pre-game warmups and the opening kickoff. *yawn*
This seems to be a problem every week. There are two very easy solutions: either change the start times of either the early games or the second games (12:50pm, or 4:30pm), or just ditch the policy! Let CBS and FOX play it by ear; give them the flexibility to put the best entertainment product out there.
Then I won’t be forced to constantly click “update” on my iTouch the next time the Jets win a close game they don’t deserve to win…
While I’m on a sports rant, I’d just like to say that I’m in favor of using instant replay in baseball on close plays. I never understood the complaint that IR would eliminate the “human element” of the game. In my view, the umpires should be as invisible as possible–if we could get all the calls right, that would be optimal. Any tool that helps the umpires get the calls right should be available to them. The human element of the game should be limits and skills of the players, not blown calls that overshadow a great human performance like Armando Galarraga’s “perfect game.”
But here’s another point in favor of IR: it’s exciting TV. Who doesn’t like the tension in an NFL game when the coach throws the challenge flag, the referee goes under the hood to look at the play, and the audience sees 17 different angles on a close play. The announcers argue and give their predictions, or debate whether it was a wise move for the coach to demand review. The referee comes back and announces the conclusion to the sporting world waiting with bated breath.
It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it doesn’t take more than two minutes. Surely this could be incorporated into baseball without difficulty. The umpires would get more calls right (and be more relaxed, knowing that their mistakes wouldn’t haunt them forever like Jim Joyce’s will). The fans would get more exciting TV. The (human!) players will be rewarded for their own achievements or mistakes rather than those of the officials. Everyone wins.
It’s puzzling to me that I haven’t been elected despot-for-life–yet…