I don't usually comment on sports because there are about a trillion other bloggers who can do it far better than me, but a number of issues have my brain wandering into the "what if?" territory.
Let's start with that debacle the NFL calls the Rams/49ers game. Mike Pereira has a good rundown on the Fox Sports site describing what led to the game ending in a 13-13 tie. OK, so the refs weren't paying attention to the game clock, and time bled while refs were moving footballs, checking with each other, and as usually basically just screwing off while a bunch of millionaires stand around not playing football. Now, I'm not one to start conspiracy theories, but here's a "what if?" question.
As the Rams/Niners game creeps through overtime, real clock time is nearing 8:20 Eastern Standard. According to the contract obligations between the NFL and NBC, no other NFL game is to be on the air at the kickoff and during the playing of the Sunday Night Football game. The official air time of "Sunday Night Football" on NBC is 8:20 EST. (With extended Veteran's Day pre-game anthem and saluting time, the actual kick-off was closer to 8:30.) WHAT IF the officials were more concerned with bringing this game in for a landing before the 8:20 EST cutoff? Think that's a wild conspiracy theory? Well, imagine the meltdown at the Fox network's switchboard, as well as here at a local Fox affiliate, had the network been forced to cut away during the last minutes of a 13-13 tie between the Rams and the 49ers. The last time that sort of thing happened was in 1968, and after the infamous "Heidi Game" there were some major changes in how long-running games are handled by the networks.
With more and more air time being whiled away while viewers wait for the officiating crew to get the down markers to achieve perfect feng shui, or whatever it is they're doing to drag things out, might we see some changes to broadcast contracts that reflect the new normal of games requiring a four-hour window? Of course, the better resolution would be to speed up the game and get refs out of the way, but if you own the stadium, and have a stake in the concessions, your ultimate goal may be the NFL game that takes all day. I, for one, wouldn't want to see that happen. Three hours of the Browns is about all anyone should be forced to endure.
You think I'm being overly sensitive to game delays? For exhibit A, I point to the the very beginning of this week's Giants/Bengals game. First possession, five plays, the Bengals score a touchdown... and that's exactly how far we got into the game before the refs had to slam on the brakes and review the play. You can pretty much assume each and every touchdown will be subject to a review, and while those reviews may take a minute or two of real time each, think about how much time that adds up to during the course of a game with four touchdowns per team. That's eight minutes MINIMUM to review each play - more likely 10 to 12 as slow as some of these reviews are. And add to that the stoppages to look at fumbles, close shave receptions, how many guys were on the field, and various other reasons somebody can find to do anything but play football, and you're looking at an estimated 20 MINUTES of down time while all the guys in the booth can do is tread water. Ugh! No wonder DVR usage is up. You can TiVo Tebow down to about 90 minutes of actual football play time if you're sharp with the remote.
Now for radio, or satellite radio to be exact. This week's Bengals broadcast was positioned on a Sirius channel named "Stars Too." I was not familiar with "Stars Too" before Sunday, and I'm not sure why anyone engineering at Sirius thought putting an NFL game for general audiences on this channel was a good idea. I've just looked up the channel description on the Sirius website. "Talk for Guys..." it says. It should say "Talk for Guys Just Out of Basic or On Death Row." After the play-by-play ended, Sirius cut back to the regular programming on "Stars Too" most unceremoniously, and with no warning that regular programming on this channel would make Howard Stern say, "Guys, reel it in." We cut directly from Dave Lapham talking about... whatever... straight to something that makes an Eddie Murphy stand up routine sound like a prayer meeting. In the span of a minute I heard several (simile for bovine excrement) and (vulgarity for fornication) and a few (slang for fecal matter) tossed around like I had just dialed in an uncut version of "The Sopranos." Hey, Sirius! I'm not a prude, but I left the frat house years ago. You might want to review your channel placement policy.
On another sport, here's a "what if" you might not have thought of... What if the NHL falls in the woods, and there's nobody around to hear it? At last check, about half the hockey season is toast while owners and players continue their dispute. I don't know what this work action is all about, but personally I'd say it's about trying to fine new and creative ways to make sure nobody ever watches hockey. Here's a more pressing dilemma for broadcasters: if we're not making money on hockey now - and very few markets actually do - what if the strike is settled today and the NHL tries to make up for lost time? Are NBC affiliates going to get saddled with hockey games all over the weekly schedule? Will regular programming - an endangered species as it is - be disrupted while local stations try to explain to their clients why "Revolution" can't get on the air? And if there's a Stanley Cup series, do NBC affiliates really want their skeds shredded for a series based on less than half a season that nobody watched to begin with? We'd be better off scheduling "Heidi."