By Brian Bickmore
There are very few things I enjoy more in life than professional sports. As one of the biggest sports fans around, an incredible portion of my life is devoted to sitting in front of the tube watching National Football League [NFL], Major League Baseball [MLB] and National Basketball Association [NBA] games. Though I love those three leagues overall, the fact that each has become such a business really irritates me. These days, “scoring” as much money as possible is their chief goal, which has caused the purity, authenticity and even reality of these beloved American pastimes to decrease significantly.
The NFL is one of the best examples of how greed and desire for a huge profit is ruining pro sports in so many ways. Watching a football game on TV now takes around four hours, a whole one of which is just commercials, according to The Wall Street Journal. Since each quarter is only 15 minutes long it means stations manage to turn an hour of actual game play into an afternoon-long ordeal for the consumer. If that wasn’t bad enough already, the audience is also subjected to advertising graphics frequently popping up on the screen during the game. These divert the announcers’ trains of thought because the network superiors mandate announcers drop their football analysis and basically make a sales pitch on the ads coming up, which gives it a corporate feel that I despise.
Though I hate those things, they are not even close to what I consider the NFL’s most heinous offence. To me, the NFL’s system of having TV timeouts is much worse. For those of you that are not familiar, TV timeouts are random stoppages in the action of NFL games solely for the purpose of injecting more commercials into the broadcast and thus making more money. This is agonizing as a viewer. But, I also believe it is plain wrong. It impacts the competitive balance of the game when one team is putting together a solid drive. In my opinion, this makes the whole game sort of fake and staged. There is no regard for the game’s authenticity, which is lessened, by the dough hungry NFL. When all is said and done, a typical NFL game goes to commercial an astonishing 20 times a game, during which players are just standing around itching to play.
Unfortunately, the same kind of thing goes on in other major sports as well. Though corporate interests are less evident in the MLB, they still unquestionably exist. Between innings, there is a mandated 2:05 waiting period for TV stations to air commercials. Due to this, players warm up for much longer than necessary, just waiting until the next inning can commence. Thankfully, it doesn’t have as much of a negative impact on the baseball game itself because players would have to run on and off the field between innings anyway, although the allocated warm-up time is way more than necessary and does disrupt some of the game’s intensity. More ads are also integrated into the telecast through pop-up ads, as well as additional commercial breaks when there are pitching changes.
But neither the NFL nor MLB is as blatant in trying to make money as the NBA. They have gotten to the point where I can’t even watch a full-length game anymore. There are just too many ads and TV timeouts; the ratio of actual game time to advertisements is literally 50/50. The NBA’s utilization of TV timeouts really angers me as well, likely even more so than football. In basketball, momentum is an extremely important part of the game, like football. But because of it being such a business, when a team is on a hot streak, they can just have that interrupted instantly because of a TV timeout. A common coaching technique in basketball is to call a timeout when the opposing team goes on a run so the coach’s squad gets a chance to regroup. Having TV timeouts does this with no coaching strategy required, which is extremely unfair. My guess is that this seriously impacts the tempo of the games.
Professional sports are not quite to the point of being fully staged and artificial, but they are not that far away. It is sickening that these leagues are willing to allow the sports everybody loves to become businesses more interested in collecting revenues than playing the games the way they were meant to be played. I still watch regularly, but if the situation gets any worse, I probably won’t be a fan much longer.