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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.?

1971.

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."

By Thomas Boswell  |  May 20, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
 
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Comments

Sweet - gives everyone more time to watch over paid cheaters ruin another sport. Baseball should die and start over.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 20, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

hurray for baseball.

lylewimbledon, die and start over.

Posted by: longterm | May 20, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I did and my second life is much better without baseball.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 20, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

stay interested, you'll be back. looks like you already are.

Posted by: longterm | May 20, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I like the earlier start time. The late games, combined with my tendency to root for the underdog, have made for some cranky mornings.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 20, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

It's good news, but I don't believe it. This will probably mean the networks will insert an extra 35 minutes of commercials into the broadcast.

Now if they would only get rid of those ridiculous "face" shots of players, coaches and fans.

Posted by: shoveit | May 20, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Unless it's face shots of despondent Yankees fans. That's okay. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 20, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Oh wait. They haven't been to a Series for a while. Never mind.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 20, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

An earlier starting time is only half the battle, how about a shorter game time? Here are the game times from the 1969 World Series between the Mets and Orioles : 2:13, 2:20, 2:23, 2:33 (10 innings) and 2:14. Here are the game times for the 2008 World Series :
3:23, 3:05, 3:41 (+ 1:31 delay, game ends at 1:47 AM), 3:08 and the 3 day game, which officially lasted 3:28. If I want to watch some of the WS, I won't even bother to turn it on until 10:30 or so, and I'll still get to watch a full hour of the game.

Posted by: ejburgess | May 20, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I live in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area; home of the Natinals and Orioles. How does this news effect me?

Posted by: noslok | May 20, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect, Boz, this is East Coast-bias crap. The starting time has been just fine in the country's other three time zones, and by moving it earlier, MLB is making the Series LESS accessible to people on the West Coast, since it will now start while they're at work.

There's no perfect answer to this. But I get tired of East Coast writers whining that the World Series (or MNF or whatever) runs past their bedtimes. The rest of us don't live in the Eastern Time zone. Suck it up and stay up later!

Posted by: Eyewitness1 | May 20, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Eyewitness1, it's not bias, it's a sensible business decision to start the games earlier. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau (quickfacts.census.gov), approximately 48.1 percent of the U.S. population resides in the Eastern time zone, while only 16.6 percent live in the Pacific time zone. Add in the 29 percent of the population that lives in the Central time zone, just one hour different from the Eastern, and more than three out of four Americans live in either the Eastern or Central time zones, with only about 22 percent making their homes in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

This starting time change makes the games more convenient for a much larger bloc of potential viewers. Those people who don't live among that largest viewing group should, how did you put it? Oh, yeah. "Suck it up".

Posted by: greggwiggins | May 20, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem staying up late. I just lose interest in baseball by August. To fix baseball, they need to limit the product. I don't enjoy watching baseball games being played in cold weather. Don't start the season until mid-May and end the regular season in mid-August. Then add a few more teams into the playoffs and I will care enough to stay up late.

And while we're at it, contract the season for the NBA and NHL as well. As for the NFL, don't add games, just change 2 of the preseason games into regular season games. Anything more and I'll start to lose interest in football season too.

Don't get me started on how the BCS needs to be fixed...

Posted by: captclamdigger | May 20, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Most of my colleagues in the central time zone seem to orinet their work schedules to east coast time. That is, in the office by 7:30 or 8 AM central. The late news is an hour early out there, and I think Letterman / Jay / John Stewart start at 10 PM. It'd seem the early start would be good for them as well, but I really don't know. Between the Central and the Eastern time zone, you do have over half the population and about about 70% of the MLB teams. This is much more friendly to the fans. Add in the prevalence of outdoor stadia in the northeast and midwest (the only domes are the Rogers Center and the Metrodome, and the latter is being replaced by an outdoor stadium), and early starts are better for the fans in the stadium, too.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | May 20, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I don't get it .Isn't baseball-and certainly the playoffs-SUPPOSED to take place when we are SUPPOSED to be at work???!!! That's part of the charm...an excuse to leave the workaday drudgery for Americas' Pastime. I remember back in the 2nd grade my teacher Mrs. White stoppin' class one afternoon to wheel in a big ole t.v.- to put on the Cards/Tigers in the series.So east vs. west...personally I wish the games started at 1pm....but I guess 4 would be OK..so you west coast guys would have the luxury of getting to leave work after half a day while thumbing your nose in favor of baseball. Us easterners would still most likely have to put in a full day, but given the choice, I'd gladly take watching THE game over work!

Posted by: zendo | May 20, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

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