Monday, December 1, 2008

Nighttime Football

Football is one of my few vices.

I have always loved football. I enjoy it live and on the TV. I watch replays of classic games on ESPN and the NFL Network. I enjoy watching it alone, with my buddies, and with the family.

But something is starting to get to me, and that is nighttime NFL football.

When I was growing up, I could watch the first half of Monday Night Football and not feel like I've missed much when I headed to bed. It was only two quarters of football, and I'd watched two games on Sunday.

But now there are 3 games during prime time every week. Games played during prime time now occur on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. That's half of the professional football that's broadcast. You get 3 games on two networks on Sunday, then the nighttime games. If you miss half of those games, that's a huge percentage of the football you have available that you don't watch.

The pregame show starts at about 8:30 for each of these where I live in the Eastern time zone, with kick off some 15 to 30 minutes later. Assuming that the game only lasts 3 hours, that means best case for the end of the game approaches midnight. For those of us who actually have families and jobs, that's quite late. I get up at about 5 every morning, and if I show up for work 3 days out of 5 with only 4 or 5 hours of sleep, my boss is going to hurt me bad.

Why do these games start so late? I've heard the argument that they start so late on the East Coast so that they're on during good times in the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones. But if a game starts at 9 in Louisville, it's starting at 6 in Los Angeles. No way most people are home by 6 to watch a football game by 6 on a work day. In the Mountain and Central time zones, the time is a bit more reasonable, but that means that a large percentage of the audience probably misses at least part of the game.

How about this: Start the games at 7 PM in each of the time zones. Tape delay it for the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones. Yes, real-time video and game commentary will be available on the Internet, but I'd be willing to bet that a large majority of fans won't cheat themselves by going that route. And if they do, who cares. Most people watch these games on their TV, so show them the game during a time frame that doesn't force them to stay up way too late or rush home to watch the game.

I know, I'm getting old, and midnight isn't that late. But 3 nights with reduced sleep is way too much to ask for football. And I can and do record the games so I can catch the second half later, but I shouldn't have to, and I wouldn't if the networks would just start showing these games at times that are more convenient to the consumer.

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