Earlier this year, I recall watching an 11:00 PM SportsCenter anchored by Steve Levy. During this SC, Levy introduced a highlight by saying that “something weird had to happen for us to show you San Jose Sharks highlights.” At the time, the San Jose Sharks had the best record in the Western Conference.
Thursday night, ESPN will devote the 9:00 PM (EDT) hour to LeBron James, his free agency, and The Decision on where he will sign. (Yeah, the caps on that were right.)
So ESPN will gladly give an hour to one NBA player and his galactic ego, but begrudges one of the best teams in the NHL 45 seconds?
If there were any justice in the world, The LeBron Hour’s ratings would be low enough to hang around with strange bio-luminescent fish and the XFL. Instead, Dick Ebersol will trot out the inevitable we’re-just-giving-the-viewers-what-they-want excuse in his next “ombudsman” column, because ESPN defines “what viewers want” as “whatever we choose to cram down your throat.”
Some general sports bloggers are still up in arms about The Detroit Situation. For those of you living under a rock: Detroit sports fans were forced to choose between the Red Wings and Pistons, because games 1-3 of the Stanley Cup Finals and games 3-5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals were scheduled at about the same times on the same nights.
Just for reference, here’s a quick list of the parties directly involved in the schedule making process for the Stanley Cup Finals and both NBA Conference Finals, in no particular order:
- The NHL
- The NBA
- The Palace at Auburn Hills
- TD Banknorth Garden
- Joe Louis Arena
- Mellon Arena
- Staples Center
- AT&T Center
Why is the NHL the only one taking the blame for this?
Thanks to our man in the Globe and Mail trenches, James Mirtle, we have a transcript of Gary Bettman’s traditional “State of the NHL” press conference, which he holds before Game 1 of the Finals. He’s wondering the same thing I am:
Q. Are you chagrinned or bothered by the fact that the Pistons and Celtics are going head-to-head against you both nights here and could you have gotten together with David Stern and done anything about it?
COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN: What’s interesting about that question is, and as I’ve watched the commentary on the subject, everybody seems to be focused on us. And I think that’s a little unrealistic and a little unfair. […]
And we, and I assume the NBA, made commitments in terms of scheduling so the networks that we’re on – and we’re on multiples in more than one language – to structure how they’re going to be programmed. Networks just can’t gut their programming schedules overnight. […]
What I think is going on – and I’m not privy to the NBA’s contractual arrangements, but I’m going to make an educated guess. TNT and ESPN, or ABC, one in the same for this purpose, schedule themselves out and they have programming, alternate programming on some nights, and then they schedule the NBA on others.
I also think, and I think I read this somewhere, that those two networks alternate who has the East and who has the West. We’re up against the NBA conference finals no matter what we do. So you’d say the logical question is: Why didn’t they just switch nights between the East and the West? And my guess is, and they were quoted as saying, it was locked in concrete over a year ago. And that’s why they didn’t switch it. Guess what, they’re not the only one who has to lock things in concrete to do business.
And so we had no choice. I’m not happy about it in terms of our fans in Detroit. But there’s nothing any of us could do.
This is par for the course. The first rule of sports writing, whether you’re a blogger or MSM writer, is this: When you need a crutch, make fun of hockey. The Sports Point reached for it last night.
ESPN reached for it last week. No burying the lede for Eric Adelson. His first paragraph puts the blame right at the NHL’s feet: “What is the NHL thinking?” Curious that a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine would be asking that question, considering that the NBA Eastern Conference finals were exclusive to, you guessed it, ESPN. He could have found the answer on his company phone list, but that would let the NHL off the hook. Wouldn’t be good for ratings.
I sent something off to Le Anne Schreiber on Adelson’s column. Let’s see if it comes up in her next update.