Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 5/24-25

Read this post to get introduced to Sports Watcher. Basically, I run down what a sports fanatic would watch if he wanted to watch as many sports as possible over the weekend. That means only one sport in a given timeslot, as many sports as possible, and as important a contest as possible. All times PDT.

Saturday
9-11 AM: College lacrosse, Syracuse v. Virginia (ESPN2). In one of my previous stint of Sports Watcher posts, I noted that the Frozen Four seemed to be the biggest college sport that wasn’t football or basketball. If ESPN is any guide, baseball, softball and lacrosse may give it a run for its money. Of course, that may just be ESPN looking for any spring championships to fill time. The final, incidentially, isn’t until Monday. The second semifinal, Johns Hopkins v. Duke, is out because otherwise I get no baseball.

12:30-4 PM: MLB Baseball, regional action (FOX). Mets/Rockies, D-Backs/Braves, Angels/White Sox. The Rockies stink after making the World Series last year, and the Mets having a .512 record (as of Wednesday) would be more impressive if they weren’t second-to-last in their own division. The other two games are more interesting, especially Angels-White Sox which pits two division leaders (again as of Wednesday) against each other, but I doubt as many people will get D-Backs/Braves as should.

5-7:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Pittsburgh @ Detroit (CBC/VS.). The NHL’s dream Stanley Cup finals for American dominance starts.

7-10 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 84 (PPV). Yes, there’s an overlap. It’ll start with dull undercard matches anyway, it’s not much of an overlap. Besides, I bet you can’t afford it anyway.

Sunday
10-1:30 PM: IndyCar Racing, Indianapolis 500 (ABC). Or as ESPN is calling it, “The 92nd Indianapolis 500 telecast presented by GoDaddy.com”. First of all, it’s not the 92nd TELECAST, TV not being arouns 92 years ago and all, and secondly, this is what they’re calling it on their ticker even when referring strictly to the race itself! But who cares? It’s all about unification, baby! And Helio winning Dancing with the Stars! And Danica winning her first race! Wait, the latter already happened on a race on ESPN Classic that wasn’t Indy?

Honorable Mention: 12-3 PM: Champions Tour Golf, Senior PGA Championship, final round (NBC). Sheesh. I once created an imaginary system where all the championships could be scheduled on one imaginary network, because usually there’s no more than one at a time (this later evolved into Sports Watcher). Key word, usually, because in 2006 the MLS Cup interfered with the Chase for the then-Nextel Cup. Now I’m considering having two tracks of Sports Watcher. Get more high-profile sports onto the main Watcher, you know?

2:30-5 PM: College softball, super-regional action (ESPNU). If you’re not familiar with college baseball or softball, super-regionals appear to be pairs of regionals. 8 teams advance from the super-regionals to the College World Series and get placed into a bracket only once they get there. Regular ESPN actually airs softball during the Indy 500!

Honorable Mention: 4-6 PM: College lacrosse, women’s championship (CBS College Sports). It’s not because of the softball that I bumped this, violating my all-championships policy in the process. It’s so early in the softball tournament that I wouldn’t cry to lose it. It’s because it just barely interferes with…

5:30-8 PM: NBA Basketball, LA Lakers @ San Antonio (TNT). A Celtics-Lakers final would be heaven for NBA brass and ratings, as much of a godsend as Pens-Red Wings is for the NHL; a Spurs-Pistons final would be hell. Keep a very, VERY close eye on the officials in both series.

The future of open-wheel racing

In the end, we all learned the number 1 rule of open-wheel racing: Don’t bleep with the Indy 500.

Now that open-wheel racing in the United States is unified once again, the unified racing body can turn its attention to repairing the damage done by the Champ Car-Indy Car war. On that front, I have a few suggestions for what to do going forward:

  • Recognize that the war only helped NASCAR’s rise, but was not solely responsible for it. NASCAR was arguably bigger than open-wheel racing even before the split, or at least before it really started punishing then-CART.
  • Decide right away whether or not you can take on NASCAR. If you think you can (and last year suggested NASCAR may be plateauing), be aware you may need a 10-year plan for it, and hope for NASCAR mistakes. Push what makes your sport distinct, run races in places NASCAR doesn’t, and leverage the passion of the fans you have. If you don’t think you can, focus on carving out a solid niche and consider running some races overseas. Either way, immediate financial solvency should be the immediate goal if you don’t want to get absorbed into NASCAR.
  • Reclaim the North and West for yourselves. CART was more popular than NASCAR entering the 90s because NASCAR was a southern sport and IndyCar racing was popular in the north. The Kasey Kahnes and Jeff Gordons of the world should not be running off to NASCAR. Rebuild the infrastructure that was there before.
  • Marketability! You can attract eyeballs if you can market your drivers. You can keep drivers if you can create marketing opportunities for them. Plugging the hell out of the likes of Danica Patrick is your friend. But whoever your best drivers are, they should be appearing in advertisements and making other appearances if you want to even have a chance to keep them from jumping ship to NASCAR.
  • Either fix the problems that caused the split in the first place, or recognize that they are unfixable. The IndyCar series has fallen victim to many of the same problems that caused it to split from CART in the first place. The barriers to success for Americans are especially vexing because of how far open-wheel racing has fallen due to the war. Make it more affordable and try and find more American oval tracks. If you recognize they are unfixable, take steps to appropriate them for your own benefits, and work to overcome them.
  • Everything revolves around the Indy 500. I actually doubt Tony George wanted to “win” the war, only create a series to compete with CART. “Winning” and becoming the de facto open-wheel leader since about 2002 if not before only led to IndyCar inheriting CART’s problems. But the Indy 500 is the only race that matters and, despite declining ratings as a result of the war, it is more than twice, if not three times, if not four times as popular than any other open-wheel race. Any effort to rebuild the sport must revolve around putting your mark on the Indy 500, and rebuilding its prestige. Daytona is one of the biggest races on Earth, but that it is more than twice as big as Indy is unacceptable.
  • ESPN is your friend – or at least it used to be. ESPN must be an equal partner in rebuilding open-wheel racing, since they, along with ABC, are showing your races. But they were probably more inclined to do so before they also started showing NASCAR races. Still, they need to plug their IndyCar broadcasts during NASCAR and generally plug that IndyCars are still here, they exist outside the Indy 500, and they’re coming back.
  • Don’t completely destroy what Champ Car left behind. Only a smattering of Champ Car events are on the 2008 schedule. That doesn’t include some Champ Car events that were serving as the series’ lifeline in its later days. Completely junking almost everything about Champ Car will only alienate its fans. And it may have had only a few fans, but you need all the open-wheel fans you can get to serve as a base to grow on!

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 4/28-29

All times PDT.

Saturday
9-5 PM: NFL Football, NFL Draft Rounds 1-2 (ESPN). Which will it be this year? Will the second round be actually treated with a little respect, or at the same level as the second-day rounds?

5-7:30 PM: NBA Basketball, San Antonio @ Denver (ESPN). Carmelo Anthony’s best chance of making it out of the first round is probably to have Joey Crawford officiating.

7:30-10 PM: NBA Basketball, Utah @ Houston (ESPN). What do you want, personalities, or good basketball? If the latter, this game is for you.

Sunday
10:30-3 PM: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Racing, Aaron’s 499 (FOX). Better than nothing.

5-7:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Anaheim @ Vancouver (VS.). Actually, if I had chosen the NHL game yesterday I would still have the other NBA game that day and the NBA doubleheaders today. But today’s NBA games, well, suck.

Sports Watcher for the weekend of 4/14-15

All times PDT.

Saturday
1-3 PM: MISL Soccer, Detroit at Milwaukee (VS.). Did you know the Detroit Ignition are an expansion team? You wouldn’t be so impressed if you knew four teams make the playoffs… out of a six-team league.

4-6:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Tampa Bay at New Jersey (CBC). Folks in Canada are incenced the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins (w/Sid the Kid) and Ottawa Senators (only Canadian team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs) is not in prime time, and they have to watch an all-American game on CBC, solely to appease NBC. But the worst part is, the game CBC is airing isn’t available nationally in the States! Personally, I blame NBC for not showing any hockey in primetime other than the Finals. If you really want to grow the game so much in the States by force-feeding us Sidney Crosby, would it really hurt to put it in primetime on by far the weakest night of the week, which the Big Four hardly bother to program anyway?

(Before you think “Is that a sign they’re adding insult to injury by throwing CBC a game no one on either side of the border cares about?” consider that the game on Versus pits the 8-seed Islanders “versus” the 1-seed Sabres. Talk about a squash.)

(Incidentially, while CBC recently locked up a long-term deal with the NHL, NBC only re-upped for one more year with an option for a second… which at first glance appears to be a retread of the previous deal, which was similar, until you note that this coming year is also the last year of the NBA on ABC.)

Sunday
10:30-3 PM: NASCAR Racing, Samsung 500 (FOX). Three drivers have over 900 points out of five with 800. It’s lonely at the top of NASCAR.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, San Diego @ Los Angeles (ESPN). It’s Jackie Robinson Day in MLB and Bud Selig is allowing any player to wear his number; the Dodgers, the team that first put him in the big leagues, is one of a few teams doing it for everybody (Mike Cameron is the only one for the Padres). Expect more 42’s than even Douglas Adams could have ever dreamed. Clearly that day will be the day our planet is obliterated for a freeway bypass.

Baseball and hockey pre-empt boxing, TNA wrestling, and BodogFight MMA from the Watcher, but I did find out that my local cable system now shows exactly THREE PPV channels (outside the porn-only channels), which show porno in lighter hours than you’d think. Is “on demand” creating a new world, one which could force boxing, wrestling, and MMA to re-think their strategies as they increasingly become the only reason for PPV’s existence (alongside porn, but that might be headed for “on demand” as well once parental controls are advanced enough to allow it)? Spike TV will carry UFC 70 for free in the States next week in what could be the most watched (by network executives) and most pivotal sports event on television in recent memory. It could be a test that could establish, once and for all, the viability and popularity of MMA, could be a “test of the waters” for boxing and MMA, to determine if cable is financially viable, to determine if it’s time to come out of the PPV shelter and possibly on the road to respectability, and if that part’s successful, it could be one final nail in the coffin for PPV. (What it would do to professional wrestling, for which PPV is an integral part of the business model to the point where a “big event” happens once a month, not once a year, is anyone’s guess.)

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 3/31-4/1

All times PDT.

Saturday
12-2:30 PM: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Kroger 250 (FOX). The Truck Series graduates from Speed Channel… for a couple of races per year.

3-5 PM: College Basketball, Georgetown v. Ohio State (CBS). At this point, the best thing for my bracket is for Ohio State to go on to win the national championship. My bracket is a mess right now, and I need to come away salvaging something.

5:45-7:45 PM: College Basketball, UCLA v. Florida (CBS). If you think it’s 2006 all over again, you’re wrong. This is only the Final Four, not the national championship.

Sunday
12-1 AM: WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (USA). Nothing like a bunch of players of a fake sport being inducted into a nonexistent hall of fame, especially when you’ve heard of maybe one or two of the people going in, most of the inductions are left out of the hour show, and even that show is on after everyone has gone to bed.

10-11:30 AM: PBA Bowling, Tournament of Champions (ESPN). I’ll be watching the NBA, as ABC has some pretty good games, but I have a policy of putting every championship possible on the Watcher.

12-3 PM: LPGA Golf, Kraft Nabisco Championship (CBS). I support women’s sports in every form, so of course I’ll be watching Dallas and Phoenix. And NASCAR. Haven’t seen the Car of Tomorrow yet. But this is on the Watcher because it happens to be a major and I have the aforementioned rule on championships.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, NY Mets @ St. Louis (ESPN2). I pull for women’s basketball huge, so why am I picking Opening Night over the Women’s Final Four? Because without fail, every single year I find myself watching it, and often being fascinated with it. Maybe it’s just the lack of baseball we’ve had all winter.

(Yes, wrestling fans, I know I left out WrestleMania but included the HoF ceremony. I only list wrestling as a joke when there’s nothing else on.)

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 3/24-25

All times PDT.

Saturday
9-11 AM: Women’s College Basketball, Bowling Green v. Arizona State (ESPN). ESPN has this really weird concept, when they’re showing the women’s tournament, called “showing every Sweet 16 game to the entire country.”

11:30-1:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Rutgers v. Duke (ESPN). If the Duke-haters are going through withdrawl since Coach K got pwned by VCU, at least the women have a cupcake path to the Final Four.

1:30-3:30 PM: College Basketball, Ohio State v. Memphis (CBS). Memphis will lead the Buckeyes for awhile before ultimately collapsing improbably.

4-6 PM: College Basketball, Kansas v. UCLA (CBS). Two of the most storied programs in college basketball, and they’re probably reduced to carrying Florida’s water.

6-8 PM: Women’s College Basketball, NC State v. Connecticut (ESPN). According to ESPN’s advertising, NC State’s run is inspiring for some reason. Hell if I know why.

8:30-10:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Florida State v. LSU (ESPN2). “Hmm… we’ve got a game the majority of which will be played after midnight on the East Coast. Who should we have playing there?” “How about an East Coast team against a Central Time Zone team?” (Actually, Stanford was upset by 10-seed FSU in the second round.)

Sunday
8-9 AM: Drag Racing, NHRA Lucas Oil Series (ESPN2): Oh wait, you say April Fools’ day is still a week away?

9-11 AM: Women’s College Basketball, Marist v. Tennessee (ESPN). Marist has had two improbable upsets over overrated BCS teams. Now they face… Pat Summitt. Welcome to reality, Foxes.

11:30-4 PM (or 2-4 PM, see below): College Basketball, Midwest (Florida v. UNLV/Oregon) and East (Georgetown v. North Carolina/USC) regional finals (CBS). Watch Florida basically get coronated into the Final Four, and then watch an actual college basketball game. Or vice versa. Who knows?

Only if Florida is in the first CBS game
11:30-1:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Mississippi v. Oklahoma (ESPN2). Courtney Paris has a double-double in all but three games of her collegiate career, including 60 straight. So naturally she’s due for a letdown.

Honorable Mention: 10:30-3 PM: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Racing, Food City 500 (FOX). If your bracket’s busted and you don’t care what happens from here on out, why not watch some history instead? This is the first NEXTEL Cup race to use the “Car of Tomorrow”, the next generation of stock-car racing vehicle. Expect the sloppiest race you’ve ever seen, of course.

4-6 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Georgia v. Purdue (ESPN2). Bet you never thought of Purdue as a power women’s team. I never thought of any Big Ten team as a power women’s team.

6:30-8:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, George Washington v. North Carolina (ESPN2). Hey, it’s George Mason all over again!

After college basketball: Mid-Major Conference Naming Ceremony (Da Blog). One mid is in the Elite Eight, one lost in the Sweet 16, two are still playing in the Sweet 16, and the rest never made it out of the first weekend. That’s good enough to name the members of the first MMC.