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Bob Ryan

These times, they should be changing

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / May 24, 2009
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In the matter of starting times for sports events, the simple reality is that you can't please everyone.

Now, if we're talking Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino, or the Vatican, perhaps you can. No time-zone problems in any of those places that I know of.

Russia? Big problem. It has 11 time zones.

I mean, geez, we have enough problems here in the continental United States with only four. Imagine trying to please all those Ivans and Sergeis with a big Russian event. What would please the good folk of Moscow would probably be more than a little annoying to the citizenry of Vladivostok.

No matter what an American sports league or network does, flak is sure to follow.

This brings us to the welcome news from Major League Baseball that the 2009 World Series and the American League Championship Series will have a starting time of 7:57 EDT (no word yet on the National League Championship Series). I say "welcome" because I live and work in the East, so I am very pleased by this development. This better suits all of us who reside in the Eastern time zone. Even Milwaukee native Bud Selig agrees with us.

"I've wanted this [for] a long time," he said.

But a headline in Tuesday's USA Today read, "Earlier start times don't please everyone."

A baseball fan from Portland, Ore., named Bob Abernathy is quoted as follows: "It's the East Coast versus the rest of the country. How does MLB expect folks in the West with actual jobs (i.e. the ones who can actually afford baseball tickets, gear, and the stuff the advertisers want to sell) to get home in time to watch a game that starts at 4:57 p.m. (Pacific)? And let's just hope there's no congestion."

Pardon me while I wipe away the tears.

The effrontery, the brazenness, the absolute gall of someone in PDT whining about the potential viewing hardship of a late-afternoon start is beneath contempt. Those people have been living charmed sports viewing lives for their entire existences. It's time we EDT/ESTers got a break.

Here's the real, actual, irrefutable honest-to-God truth of the matter: For decades upon decades, people from the East Coast have made all the viewing sacrifices. Those West Coast dilettantes haven't been asked to make any.

It's time those pampered PDT/PSTers had to live with World Series, baseball playoffs, NBA Finals, and Final Four starting times that either a) prevent normal working people from seeing the finish of games or b) preclude the youth of America from watching these games at all. That's the reality of life on the East Coast.

Aren't they ridiculous? I'm asking you, which is worse: missing the first two innings or first quarter or missing the last three innings or fourth quarter? It's not even close.

And this is without even mentioning the plight of the actual EDT paying customers. At least the people at home can turn off the TV and go to bed as soon as the late-finishing game is over. The people who, as the beleaguered Oregonian Bob Abernathy would put it, actually pay up and go to the games must then file out, get to wherever they've parked, and drive home. All this could easily take two hours, meaning that an extra-inning postseason baseball game might result in some EDTer getting home around 3 a.m.

So we just don't want to hear about the trials and tribulations of living on the West Coast. Boo bleepin' hoo.

The networks are the obvious villains here, but the real enemies of the people are the commissioners and owners, who always, always, always seek every last penny they can extract from the networks, sacrificing the integrity of the game and the best interests of their fans with their greed. They have surrendered control of their own events in exchange for the maximum dollars. They tell you when you'll play, rather than the other way around, so common sense is abrogated.

Exhibit A: Sunday, May 17.

The Lakers were playing the Rockets in a Game 7 at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Celtics were playing the Magic in Game 7 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. Common sense dictates the Celtics would play in the afternoon and the Lakers would play afterward.

But nooo. ABC/ESPN had the Western Conference game, so it had to have it at 3:30 EDT. TNT had the Eastern Conference game, and it had control of the evening. Therefore, the Lakers started at 12:30 p.m. PDT and the Celtics started at 8 p.m. EDT. How absurd is that?

TV.

Now let's get back to this baseball business.

Has it ever occurred to the PDTers who are sincerely interested in the baseball playoffs and/or World Series that all games are on this interesting contraption called radio and that there are far worse things in life than listening to an inning or three on radio whilst driving home before plopping down in front of the TV? As a lifelong EDTer, I would gladly take that scenario over the one we endure on an annual basis, watching games drag on (another story for another day) past midnight.

But I have a solution.

Let's be fair. Let's ask both PDTers and EDTers to give a little.

How's this for a World Series schedule?

Game 1: Saturday, 6:57 EDT/3:57 PDT

Game 2: Sunday, 4:07 EDT/ 1:07 PDT

Game 3: Tuesday 7:57 EDT/4:57 PDT

Game 4: Wednesday, 8:38 EDT/5:38 PDT

Game 5: Thursday, 7:57 EDT/4:57 PDT

Game 6: Saturday, 6:57 EDT/3:57 PDT

Game 7: Sunday, 4:07 EDT/1:07 PDT

Well, yeah, I sneaked those Sunday afternoons in there. This is an absolute no-brainer. In fact, it should have been Bud's one non-negotiable, and NFL me no NFLs. I know Fox has both. In a better world, it wouldn't. And there is no reason a Saturday game has to start any later than 7 EDT. And next year you flip-flop the weeknights, giving the PDT/PSTers the Tuesday-Thursday later starts. That's fair.

Yeah, I know. Makes too much sense. Yeah, I know, never happen. But I can dream, can't I?

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of the Globe's 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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