I love Fake Sigi and find him to be incredibly thorough and thoughtful when he decides to post something (which is far too infrequently), but I can’t get behind him on this one.
I honestly can’t work up sympathy for anyone who thinks it’s a hardship that they have to watch soccer for 20 hours on a Saturday because they want to wake up early to watch games from Europe and then have MLS games played on this continent until late at night (ironically enough, this past Saturday was one where MLS action was completed before 10pm Eastern because there were no west coast games). If you choose to get up early to watch West Ham, that’s great. But if you then also want to see Los Angeles against Chivas USA at 11pm, well, I figure you have some options, but complaining about your lot in life or how MLS is out to screw you probably aren’t two of them.
Lots of people want MLS to do lots of things the way The Rest Of The WorldTM does them, only most of the rest of the world’s Division I leagues aren’t in countries that span four time zones. And MLS’ first priorities are – and are going to be for a while – the ticket-buying public and the programming needs of its television partners. Not always in that order (Outsourcing Kansas City fans, enjoy that 9pm local start on a Thursday night for the opener for your new park), I grant you.
But here’s a very specific example of where FS’ rant takes a hit:
Last Thursday, April 14th 2011, MLS famously went with an 8:00 Pacific Standard Time start for Portland’s first ever home game.
“I know a lot of people between Chicago and Miami, and let’s face it, that’s about 3/4 of the entire country’s population, looked at that 10-11pm start time and said, ‘What the fuck? I’m not even going to bother watching that game.’ Games that finish at 1 a.m. on the east coast are exactly what we’ve been trying to do, and if we can put as many of those on Saturday as possible, where we can force people to stay awake for 20 straight hours or choose between which league they’re going to support, so much the better. Not to mention we can tap the Hawaiian and early morning Australian soccer dollar.”
(First off, it’s Pacific Daylight Time this time of year, but that’s just nitpicking, innit? And it’s a pet peeve of mine.)
Secondly, oddly enough, despite 3/4 of the country’s population ignoring the Timbers/Fire game, the telecast drew a .2 rating, 183,000 TV households and 214,000 viewers nationally. And here’s the key part:
“That was on par with ESPN2′s broadcast of a Philadelphia-Toronto MLS game that aired on the corresponding Thursday last year.”
That Philadelphia-Toronto game, on April 15, 2010, took the air at 7pm Eastern, by the way.
Now, do I think a steady diet of west coast TV games does MLS a lot of good? No, but if we’re going to have New York at Los Angeles on national TV and the Superclasico and if the Cascadia teams are going to give us things like The Great American Soccer RivalryTM, these things are going to happen. I guess it was much easier when the league only had 10 teams and (basically) one national English TV outlet. ESPN also makes college football teams play at 11 am local time on Saturdays, seriously cutting into your Friday night partying if you’re a college kid at a Big Ten school.
Every other major sport in this country has games on a given day that go from East to West coast, from daylight to night owl territory. What those other sports don’t have is serious competition for TV eyeballs from games being played 3,500 miles and six or more time zones away. I get that.
But what would you have MLS do? They’ve already dumped overtime and the shootout, brought in a bunch of “FC” names (and worse), embraced the “traditions” of supporters’ culture, brought back the reserve league and imported Englishmen to broadcast the games. I know you want single table, promotion and relegation and no playoffs, too, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on those. Do you want them to start every game at 3pm on Saturday as well, so your weekends can be a little more diverse?
The solution? Take a nap. Or prioritize.
Lastly, of this from the end of FS’ rant:
Unfortunately for those few retired people yearning to watch professional soccer at a reasonable time, MLS attendance took a beating with the early start times.
As well as a shit-ton of bad weather in the East. There’s no pleasing the gods sometimes, I guess.