Boswell: It's Safe To Watch The World Series Again
Henceforth, every World Series and ALCS game on a weeknight will begin at 7:57 p.m. -- or about 35 minutes earlier than in recent times.
Let's have three cheers and a couple of "Hurrahs!" for MLB and Fox. And let's hope MLB and TBS work out a similar plan for the rest of baseball's post-season.
When was the last Monday-through-Friday Series game that started as early as 7:57 p.m.?
How much difference will 35 minutes make? Maybe a lot. Let's illustrate. Since 2000, about 70 percent of weeknight Series games have ended after 11:45 p.m. That just doesn't fit the lifestyle of tens of millions of fans on the East Coast. By 11:45 p.m., the "Tonight Show" and David Letterman monologues are finished and conventional folks think it's time to go to bed so they can face work in the morning. That goes double for school-age kids.
Now, that is about to change. MLB got hit with a sledge hammer last October. The TV ratings for the World Series were 17 percent lower than for the previous worst Series in '06.
What will October life be like especially if, as planned, Fox games on Saturday start before 7:57? (For Sunday games, Fox picks up after the NFL ends.) Let's go to the record book.
If the 7:57 p.m. start time had been in effect since 2000, then about 90 percent of baseball's weeknight World Series games would have been over by midnight; 80 percent would have ended by 11:45 and 60 percent would have been over by 11:30.
In other words, the large majority of Series games would have ended in a "normal" time frame for East Coast viewers.
Who knows what determines a country's lifestyle habits? But, surely, we all realize that midnight has a powerful meaning to most Americans, especially Monday through Friday. Millions of us say, "I can't keep watching this stupid game. It's almost mdnight."
Is 7:57 a magic bullet? Maybe not. Baseball may need to move its October starting times to 7:30 to hold its audience. It may have to make it even earlier for children. After all, most regular-season games begin at 7:05 because fans want to be out of the ballpark around 10 p.m.
Nothing can be done about the occasional 5-hour, 41 minute or 4-hour, 51 minute monstrosity of a game (remember the '05 and '00 World Series?). But 7:57 p.m. is likely to put 90 percent of MLB-Fox games into most fans' comfort zone. Five words kill October ratings: "The game ended after midnight."
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