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Start World Series Games Earlier; Let Us Sleep

Fans cheer during the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park.
Rob Carr
/
Getty Images
Fans cheer during the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park.

Let me ask you a question: No matter what the sport, if you could only see the start of a game or the finish of a game, which would you prefer? Of course, any fool would choose to see the finish of the game.

But television and the World Series don't get this. They start games late, so that people in the East who have to get up so they can put food on their table to support their family turn off the game and go to sleep. Or they become conditioned to think, "Hey, I know I won't be able to stay up for the end of the game anyway, so I'll watch the Home Shopping Network instead." And, by the way, I won't let the schoolkids get teased by seeing only the start of the game either, so children are denied baseball's championship and grow up mixed-martial arts fans instead.

Of course, if games started earlier, that sliver of Americans who live in the Mountain time zone or those out on the West Coast may not see the opening pitch, but, hey, they get to see the good part and they get a good night's sleep, both.

Second question: If you ran a business and most of the customers lived over here, and not so many over there, wouldn't you put your store where it was most convenient for the majority? Of course you would.

But the World Series and television don't get that. Almost half of Americans live in the Eastern time zone. Yes, yes, yours truly included. So sue me. I'm selflessly supporting the common good, but only coincidentally looking out for No. 1. Three-quarters of us live in the Eastern and Central time zones combined, but the World Series games are scheduled for the convenience of that one-fourth of the audience Rocky Mountain high and beyond.

So people wonder why so few viewers watch the World Series or why, too, Eastern football fans come into the office Tuesday morning and ask what happened in the last quarter of the Monday night NFL game.

Very simply, the World Series and all national sports events on TV should start no later than 7 p.m. Eastern.

Look, a lot of things are responsible for the declining World Series ratings. First of all, baseball games drag on without a conscience. As I've said before, baseball may be proud to be a game without a clock, but people who watch do own clocks. Baseball is a summer game that draws huge attendance in season, but as Shakespeare himself said about the Series in late October: The time is out of joint.

Baseball has also become more of a sport where the greatest devotion is to the home team. It is no longer the "national pastime." It is the local pastime. Once your club is out, it's onto autumn leaves –– and there's a lot of entertainment competition this time of year.

Look, the World Series is never going to capture the nation again. But, for goodness sake, have the minimum intelligence to schedule the games on TV so that the largest audience can see what matters most. And that part of the game is what this is now: the end.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frank Deford died on Sunday, May 28, at his home in Florida. Remembrances of Frank's life and work can be found in All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and on NPR.org.

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