Who cares about TV ratings?

So what if ratings for the World Series are in the toilet? Who cares if games are longer than a drive time radio show? I am looking forward to the remaining two or three games, before we put a lid on the 2019 season. Why? Pitching, pitching, pitching.

On paper, and I know games are not played on paper, it shapes up as great pitching matchups. Scherzer vs. Cole, Verlander vs. Strasburg has me remembering pitching match ups of years ago. Yes, things have changed, with hitters purposely fouling off pitches beyond reason to run up the pitch count. I mean, had batters tried that stuff in the old days they would have won a seat on the ground. However, I do think we should have some great games, with nail biting outcomes.

So let the critics harp about ratings and long games, I plan on enjoying what’s left of the 2019 baseball season.

Baseball playoffs have me glued

I am riveted to the baseball playoffs.  The Washington Nationals, having shocked the Los Angeles Dodgers, ousting them from the NLDS, have won the first two games of the NLCS on the road.  And how did they go two up on the Cardinals?  Great pitching!

And as I pound out this quick blog, late on a Sunday night, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros are into the ninth inning of game two of the ALCS.  The score is tied 2-2 in the ninth inning and the crowd at Minute Maid Park is going bonkers, yelling on every pitch.   The Yanks won the series opener on Saturday night.  What has been the dominant theme of the series so far?  You guessed it- great pitching.

They may be hitting home runs at a record pace.  They may be scoring runs at a record pace.  But in the end, winning championships still comes down to pitching and that has been the story so far in this post season.

Enjoy the baseball.  The fun has just started.

The Dodgers left 62 years ago

As I sit here pounding on my iPad and watching the LA Dodgers lead the Washington Nationals, 3-0, in the deciding game of the 2019 NLDS, broadcaster Ernie Johnson Jr. is informing the audience the Dodgers play in major league baseball’s third oldest ballpark.  Only Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are older.
Has it been that long since the Dodgers left Brooklyn?  Yes it has.  In fact, as the modern baseball era timeline goes (1900-present), the Dodgers have been in Los Angeles longer than Brooklyn.  Yet, for many they will always be the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Dark day in Brooklyn
I doubt that broadcaster Johnson will mention in his discourse that 62 years ago today the borough of Brooklyn fell into mourning, from which some suggest it has never recovered, even though it is arguably more vibrant than ever and home to professional sports franchises.   For on Oct. 9, 1957, residents awakened to read the front page news.  (Back then, people still got the day’s news for the first time from their morning paper.)  There it was in bold type.  The Dodgers were leaving Brooklyn, moving to Los Angeles in 1958.
They didn’t even wait for the World Series to end.  Game six of the series would be played the next day at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees trailing the Milwaukee Braves, three games to two.  The Dodgers were leaving and that was that.  Tough luck if they upstaged their rivals by making the announcement, during the climax of the baseball season.  The Dodgers were moving west, joining their National League rivals the Giants, who had announced in August of that year they off to San Francisco.
No, somehow, I don’t expect tonight’s telecast will remind us of that dark day in Brooklyn, 62 years ago.  It was another time, another era, and some would say another game.  I’ll bet many at Dodger Stadium or watching the game on TV haven’t even heard of Walter O’Malley.  Just don’t mention his name in Brooklyn, where memories have not faded, even 62 years later.

NFL ratings through the roof

There are websites that love to run down the NFL.  One in particular takes a certain thrill out of linking to stories about empty seats in NFL stadiums.  Any credibility this website has goes out the window with me, because of the publisher’s refusal to mention how this year’s NFL TV ratings are going through the roof.  If it doesn’t fit the narrative, why let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Highest rated in four years
So now it turns out the Green Bay-Dallas game on Sunday afternoon, nationally televised on FOX, was the highest rated game since 2015, attracting 24.6 million viewers.  
Can you understand why networks continue to trip over each other to secure TV rights for America’s true National Pastime?  Not only does the NFL attract viewers, it does so on a medium that is generally losing viewers to social media and other electronic avenues of communication.
And it’s not just the national games.  The first game of the twin bill on FOX was also a hit.  The Vikings-Giants and Bears-Raiders each averaged about 16.05 million viewers.  Those numbers are the best for the first game of a doubleheader in nearly two decades.
Baseball would kill for those ratings for its post season games, let alone regular season.  Those games, by the way, have become tedious to view.  It seems they all last four hours or longer.  And I love and broadcast baseball.  Length of games in that sport is an issue that must be addressed, but I’ll save that for another blog.
For now, however, the story is the NFL and how it is drawing viewers big time.  And the Sunday national game doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of viewers who streamed the game.
A near Academy Award impact
Let’s put the sport in its ultimate perspective.  The Sunday Packers-Cowboys game was the highest rated program on television since the Academy Awards in February attracted 29.56 million viewers.  And that was televised in prime time.

Let the websites run down the NFL.  Let that one website in particular continue to link to only negative NFL stories.  The nation is watching the NFL in big numbers and the league is laughing all the way to the bank.

Sports heading down a slippery slope. Bet on it

Capital One Arena/YT grab

Slowly, but surely, what we valued growing up is being torn asunder.  Remember when we told how bad it was to bet on sports?  It’s been 100 years since the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.  College basketball was rife with betting scandals.  The late Curt Gowdy talked about it, when the Hall of Fame broadcaster gave me an interview nearly a quarter of a century ago.  Now comes word a betting parlor will open in The Capital One Arena, home of the Wizards and Capitals.   Action on NBA and NHL games will be taken.

All of this is the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that broke the shackles on sports betting.  Now revenue-strapped states are tripping over each other to legalize sports betting on any event.  And the major sports: baseball, football, basketball and hockey are all making deals with betting entities like MGM to get their cut of the action.  The billions they currently make aren’t enough.

The day will come – New York and Illinois are already talking about it – when parlors will be opened within big league ballparks.  Not only will you be able to bet on a game’s outcome, but whether Aaron Judge hits a home run or strikes out in his next at bat.

In the Washington arena, there is some trepidation over whether the parlor will remain open, when Georgetown is playing a college basketball game.  What do you think?

What’s at stake?  Only the integrity of the games.  Mark my words, as my dad used to say.  We are heading down a slippery slope.  Bet on it.

California and NCAA eyeball to eyeball

Gov. Newsom, James/YT grab

The state of California and the NCAA are now eyeball to eyeball. Which side will blink first?

Newsom signs bill 
On Monday, former college baseball player Gavin Newsom, now the governor of California, signed into law a bill permitting college athletes to align with agents and sign endorsement deals. In other words, they would be paid to play college sports. Newsom staged the signing ceremony with Lebron James at his side on Lebron’s HBO show. Former UConn and current WNBA star Diana Taurasi was also on the set.

NCAA prepared to challenge 
The NCAA opposes the law, claiming the distinction between amateurs and pros will be blurred. Proponents of the bill, including James, say big time college sports has been using athletes, while raking in billions of dollars over the years. No one has yet explained to me, why getting a free college education and the legal perks that go along with being a college athlete isn’t considered compensation, while the non-student athlete slugs through school amassing huge debt. But for the moment, put that argument on the back burner.

Eyeball to eyeball 
The NCAA says it is prepared to take California to court. Newsom is daring them to, stating that the Golden State has too many high profile schools and generates too much revenue for the NCAA to turn this into a court challenge. My bet is the NCAA will come up with a plan, before the law takes effect in 2023, that accommodates California and the other 49 states. Not to do so could lead to what some foresee as other states joining California and forming their own governing body for collegiate sports, leaving the NCAA on the sidelines.

For the moment, however, both sides are eyeball to eyeball, and I’m fascinated as to which side will blink first.