Wednesday 28 October 2009

Are Fans Finally Getting What They Want?

More Day Games PLEASE.

If there is a sport played on an outdoor field - there is absolutely no question that the quality of the game is far superior to when it is played at night.

The National Rugby League switched their Grand Final from a 3pm start to an 8pm kick-off in 2001 to satisfy television network Channel Nine's desire to show the code's biggest game in prime time.

What wasn't taken into consideration was the concept of 'Grand Final Day' when fans could organise a big get together to watch all three grades and celebrate their team's victory (or wallow in their defeat) on into the night. But with a night Grand Final - kids in particular would miss out - celebrations would be curtailed by the late night finish.

The euphoria of a Grand Final victory would last barely an hour before people began to leave, rather than the debrief starting at about 6pm and going well on into the evening. And those who went to the game would consider trying to beat the traffic home first and staying to take in the post-game atmosphere a distant second following the full time whistle.

But Television only cared about the ratings during the game itself and from 2001 to 2007 the game was kept at the prime time kick-off. Finally people power made some headway (after a long time complaining) and Channel Nine and the NRL made a concession - moving the kick-off back to 5:15pm.

This still meant that part of the game is played at night, but the first half started in the twilight.

It was a compromise that didn't quite give fans everything they were after - but it is better than having to wait til 8pm for the biggest game of the season.

The Australian Football League has so far resisted overtures from TV to move their game out of the Saturday Afternoon time slot - and their Grand Final is far better for it.

Now Major League Baseball may be following suit.

Right now the entirety of the World Series (the Grand Final of Baseball is a Best of Seven Game Series) is played at night - with Television Stations who spend millions of dollars demanding that the games be in prime time. Not since 1984 when Detroit and San Diego played a day game in the World Series has the true essence of baseball been a consideration in the final games of the season.
The downside to the prime time revolution is when at least one West Coast team makes the World Series. This is because a prime time start in the West means a late night start in the more lucrative East Coast market. In 2002 when the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels played in the World Series, the starting times were a nightmare for East Coast centric TV executives.

News today that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig wants to have at least one afternoon start for a World Series game is fantastic. There is no doubt that baseball is a better game during the day (much like how cricket is a better contest during the day) and for a lot of fans - the game never feels the same at night.

Here is a link to the article on Yahoo! Sports.

Perhaps the most cranium scratching facts about night games for the biggest matches of the year are the fact that particularly in baseball - the majority of games are day games... yet when the biggest matches take place - we play them at night.

It begs the question - does the championship winning team need to be the best team over 162 Games or just the best team at playing night baseball?

Just food for thought... why do we play day games in any sport if the biggest game of the year is played in different conditions?