Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 5/31-6/1

All times PDT.

Saturday
9-2 PM: College Softball, College World Series, second round action (ESPN). Quick format explanation: Teams that lose in round 1 play a second first round game, then play the second round loser from the other half of the bracket. Then they move on to the semifinal tomorrow, but if the team that lost a game wins the first game, they play a second game. It’s really simple! The best-of-three final gets played over the next three days.

5-7:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Detroit @ Pittsburgh (CBC/NBC). For a while there were reports that NBC was decreasing its Stanley Cup Finals commitment so low that some potentially deciding games would be cut. Buf if you cut a deciding game, make it Game 4. If it’s 3-0, it’s a sweep if it ends and that’s boring. If it’s 2-1, well, it’s not a deciding game, is it?

In fact, if this year’s Finals has shown anything, it’s that if you’re going to cut any game, in any sport’s best-of-seven series, deciding or non-deciding, from broadcast, make it Game 3. After the first two games, everyone was thinking the series would have little suspense and would be done quickly. I have to imagine that depressed viewership for Game 3, despite the currently-reported relatively strong ratings. Now viewership will pick back up again for Game 4. I think a structure putting the first two games on broadcast, priming the pump for everyone to watch, and the last two or three games on broadcast, makes sense.

9-11 PM (both coasts): EliteXC Mixed Martial Arts, Saturday Night Fights (CBS, both coasts). The only place this doesn’t interfere with hockey is on the West Coast; otherwise it’s merely an honorable mention. This thing better knock my socks off in the ratings or it will not get any sort of a protected spot in future Watchers.

Sunday
2-10 PM: French Open, 3rd round action (Tennis Channel). I write this a day in advance. I have no clue what to expect.

10:30-3 PM: NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing, Best Buy 400 (FOX). I will be watching the IndyCar race starting at 1, but I’m sure you’ll go gaga over this without me. I’m a bit distressed at the most logical reasons why ESPN still doesn’t cover NASCAR as much as its popularity suggests it should, that is to say, on shows like Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption.

5:30-8 PM: NBA Basketball, Detroit @ Boston, if necessary (ABC). Hey, Detroit residents don’t need to decide between basketball and hockey anymore!

If Boston wins Game 6:
5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, LA Dodgers @ NY Mets (ESPN). Because I have to make some mention of OMG JOE TORRE’S COMING BACK TO NEW YORK EVEN THOUGH HE ISN’T PLAYING HIS FORMER TEAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111!!!1111!!1111!!!!eleven!

Can I mention that in my hunting around the world of sports, looking for something, ANYTHING to fill any conceivable hole in the schedule, the Sports Watcher is still a labor-intensive excersize that still drains a lot from me, even with the ability to finish it a day or so in advance? I may abandon it again in August or so when the Little League World Series dies down.

I have an inkling of an idea to do a rundown of EVERY sporting event on TV, not just one for each timeslot. But of course that would be MORE work. A part of me wants to refer people who want that sort of thing to HD Sports Guide, but a) it doesn’t include end-of-time-slot info and b) it only includes HD stuff. And if I do that, I might as well do a schedule of EVERY SINGLE SPORTING EVENT BEING PLAYED ANYWHERE EVER. That would be beyond my capacities and would probably mean a whole other web site. You might find Sports TV Insider or DirecTV’s My Game Schedule useful, though.

I may do a Watcher-like rundown of just stuff on each sport’s own network. If you have any suggestions for how to reform the Watcher, leave a comment and I may have a poll up next week, running until I finally do end the Watcher again in August.

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.

Most. Overrated. "Dunk." Ever.

So I’m watching the NBA Dunk Contest and I see Dwight Howard put on a Superman getup and cape and try a dunk and everyone is proclaiming it the greatest dunk ever while the judges are giving it all 10s, and I’m thinking, How is it the greatest dunk ever WHEN IT WASN’T EVEN A DUNK?

So today I’m watching ESPN and I’m hearing that other people are pointing out it wasn’t a dunk and I’m relieved that other people feel the same way I do. And just now I hear ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike on SportsCenter claiming it wasn’t a dunk because it was somehow BETTER than a dunk!

And that snaps it into focus for me. No one’s getting at my REAL problem with this “dunk”. Namely, that even if it was a dunk it’s not that great of one.

First, let’s consider why it ended up not being a dunk. Namely, he doesn’t quite fly enough to reach the rim, so he has to throw it the rest of the way and hope it goes in. He not-dunks it because he’s not good enough to real-dunk it! Now, you might say he throws it with such force and power that that’s what Mike and Mike meant by saying it was better than a dunk. You’re entitled to your opinion. But WHEN YOU PUT ON A SUPERMAN CAPE IN A COMPETITION THAT REWARDS HIGH FLYING, I EXPECT TO BELIEVE YOU CAN FLY! IF YOU CAN’T EVEN REACH THE RIM, THE SUPERMAN CAPE HAS ONLY CREATED HIGHER EXPECTATIONS AND IS ACTUALLY A DETRIMENT TO MY OPINION TO YOU! IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT ON A SUPERMAN CAPE THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS ACTUALLY REACH THE RIM!

Second, let’s say he DOES reach the rim and throw it down. Take away the Superman cape and what do you have? A rather pedestrian dunk! So far as I can tell he wasn’t intending to do anything special with the ball. He was going to catch it, head up to the rim, and dunk it. It’s essentially the basic alley oop with a running start. There is no way that cuts it in the dunk contest! That’s about as basic a dunk as you can have when you have someone passing you the ball! That’s not worthy of all 10s by a long shot!

(By contrast, how does Gerald Green’s cupcake dunk not only fail to get all 10s from the judges, but actually receive an EIGHT from Darryl Dawkins? Darryl’s a hater! Darryl’s a hater!)

Also, TNT is owned by Time Warner. Superman is owned by DC Comics which is owned by Time Warner. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. At the very least it helps explain why the “dunk’s” shortcomings were ignored entirely by the TNT crew. I guarantee you that if he’d put a Spiderman costume on, the TNT crew would not be creaming themselves nearly as much over the “dunk”.

NBA Re-ups with ABC, ESPN, TNT

This is a little late; blame NBA.com’s tardiness putting up the story, but the NBA will stay on ABC, ESPN, and TNT through 2016, well after just about all other leagues will have to renew their agreements. So far as people watching TV will be able to tell, it will be status quo, unless they happen to watch NBA TV try to become as close to the NFL Network as the NBA is to the NFL.

TNT will show 52 regular season games a year and up to that number of playoff games. ABC will show a minimum of 15 regular-season and the same number of playoff games, including the Finals; the ESPN family will show up to 75 regular season games and 29 playoff games.

More info at the linked article.

15 playoff games mean even with a 7-game Finals, ABC will have to show 8 playoff games, more games than Finals games. This represents a larger playoff commitment on the part of both ABC and ESPN. This and more analysis on Sports Media Watch.

NBC probably had the most successful run of any NBA TV partner, but this deal will give ABC rights for longer than NBC. Many NBA fans on the Internet have been critical of the NBA on ABC – and with gimmicks like bringing in the Pussycat Dolls to do songs for the opener, ABC makes an easy target – but the NBA and others have stated repeatedly that NBC, CBS, and Fox did not make a sufficient offer to compete, and it’s absurd to blame the NBA’s broadcast ratings woes to the presentation of games on ABC. If the games are good, people will turn in in spite of the presentation.

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.

How much is that team in the window?

This will probably seem completely swerve-y compared to the posts so far, but it could look completely in place compared to what could come later, even if the topic eventually chosen has nothing to do with sports. (Keep commenting on the post below this one!) If your eyes completely glaze over at this stuff, please skip past it to the posts below.

ESPN has an intriguing story on Portland, Oregon’s efforts to land a major league baseball team, namely, the Florida Marlins, who are currently engaged in stadium woes. The case is compelling, with a stadium deal on the table, and one of the largest markets without an MLB team. Of the four traditional major sports, Portland holds only one, the NBA’s Trail Blazers; it’s the largest metropolitan area in the 2000 Census with but one team from the traditional four major sports, and ranked behind only San Diego for having two or fewer. (The Census has since broadened its definition of a metro area, splitting Baltimore from Washington and nonsensically splitting Riverside and San Bernardino counties from the LA area into its own metro area that tops all three.) According to the article, one research group ranked Portland behind only New York and LA for having the highest ratio of population to traditional big four teams.

On both ratio and being the largest market with either only an NBA team or no baseball team, Portland is behind Orlando and Sacramento on Nielsen’s list of TV markets. But both those markets are far closer to their natural alternative alliegiance (Tampa Bay and the SF Bay Area, respectively) than Portland is to Seattle, the nearest MLB team.

Las Vegas, Charlotte, and San Antonio are also mentioned as expressing interest, and Northern New Jersey (which would make MLB join the NHL as the only even remotely prominent leagues with three teams in one market), Orlando, and Norfolk/Hampton Roads are also flirted with. Under the old Census definition, Hampton Roads is the largest metro area without any traditional major league team, with Las Vegas right behind, but both have their problems (in Vegas’ case, the whole gambling thing). Connecticut leads the list of Nielsen markets, though it does have the WNBA’s Sun, followed by West Palm Beach, Grand Rapids (who have the Arena Football League’s Rampage), Birmingham AL, Harrisburg PA, Hampton Roads, and Las Vegas.

The Marlins are not the only team with stadium woes. The NHL’s Penguins are also haggling over stadiums and may be out of Pittsburgh next year. Kansas City is considered the front-runner, but Houston is the States’ largest old-definition metro area and largest Nielsen market without an NHL team (and have reportedly expressed interest), though it’s very south and the league’s southern movement is seen as to blame for its recent woes. Seattle follows close behind in both; though there’s theoretically an attraction with the Vancouver Canucks, being a Seattleite myself I don’t see it, though one difference with baseball in Portland is we don’t get the Canucks on TV. Quebec City and ex-NHL city Winnepeg are Canadian metro areas 7 and 8; the Canadian NHL teams line up with the top 6 metro areas exactly.

Seattle itself is the center of stadium woes in the NBA, as the Sonics have gotten fed up with their stadium, a decade old and made antique by the replacement of the Kingdome with new baseball and football stadiums. Spice was added to the fire when a group of investors from Oklahoma City bought the team; the New Orleans Hornets have done amazingly well in exile in the OKC, and the city has been angling for an NBA team (and the Penguins if they can’t get it). A move out of Seattle, the largest market with stadium woes I’ve talked about so far and with much more fan loyalty than in South Beach, would be a “Cleveland Browns” situation if there ever was one. The NBA has a history of being the only game in town; Orlando, Sacramento, Portland, and San Antonio boast NBA teams as their only traditional major league teams. But it doesn’t have more teams than those others, so they have to come from somewhere: San Diego and St. Louis are the largest old-definition metro areas without NBA teams, and in St. Louis’ case it’s the only traditional major league they’re missing. The STL ranks only behind Tampa Bay (another market with everything but the NBA) in Nielsen markets, followed by yet another MLB-NFL-NHL market, Pittsburgh (though that may not be for long, of course!), and finally Baltimore.

The NFL, of course, has the “LA Gap”, and like baseball, by the old definition Portland is the largest metro area without a team other than LA. Also like baseball, the NFL has Orlando and Sacramento as the only Nielsen markets ahead of Portland. The NFL, though, has teams in curiously small markets like Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Green Bay; they make up for it with a lack of a team in Milwaukee, no team in LA, and only one team in Chicago (baseball is the only traditional major league with two Chicago teams).