Can We Speed Things Up At The CWS?

September 28, 2009
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(This was originally posted on 7/30/09.  We just moved this and all other CWS posts from our old blog after we launched our new web site design on 9/25/09.)

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It’s been a while since my last post, so I thought I would share a few thoughts while I’m watching the Cubs vs. Astros on WGN.

Speaking of baseball on TV, the length of the games on ESPN was one of the hottest topics to come out of the College World Series. The average CWS game time was 3 hours and 40 minutes. That is a bit long, but more commercials are a fact of life when it comes to postseason sports on television. Networks are paying big money for the rights to the games, and packing each break is a necessary evil if they’re going to make money.

An average big league ball game is just under three hours, while a commercial break typically lasts between 90 seconds and two minutes. Compare that to the aforementioned 3:40 game time that is due in part to the three and a half minute breaks ESPN takes every half inning.

Here are some ideas to speed things up next year (and beyond) on ESPN in Omaha:

1. Do away with the mid-game interview with each team’s head coach. I watch Major League Baseball all the time, and it’s never done in the regular season, and yet I still enjoy the game. The mid-game interview is the single most useless interview in TV sports, and ESPN isn’t the only guilty party. Fox does it too during the MLB postseason. They don’t do it during a football game, they wait until halftime (and it’s still mostly useless). It’s not like the interviews are sponsored, so put us all out of our misery and get back to the game quicker rather than make us sit through an extra 30 seconds of dugout banter. However, if ESPN wants to keep the interviews how about a compromise…

2. Inset the interview in a small picture-in-picture type box at the bottom of the screen. This way viewers and ESPN all get to eat their cake and eat it too. The interview goes on at the bottom of the screen while we watch the start of play begin that inning. ESPN holds-up play to get the interviews in, but they could be easily recorded (which I know FOX has done in the past and may still do). I’m sure it won’t kill Orel Hershiser and Mike Patrick if they get 30 seconds less air time. Speaking of which…

3. Do away from the in-game instructional demonstrations in the press box. Bob Brenly’s doing a pretty good job of analyzing the game I’m watching right now, and he hasn’t done one on-camera bit between innings to show me how Kevin Hart grips the ball when he throws his off-speed pitch. I know it’s college baseball, but it’s still baseball. We don’t need the game explained to us like we’re ten years old just because we’re watching college players instead of big leaguers. However, if ESPN really thinks it needs the demonstrations see suggestion #2. Do them at the bottom corner of the screen in a small box while the game is going on. Better yet, ESPN could promote its web site by posting the demonstrations there. IE- Mike Patrick: “To see Orel show you how to throw a curveball go to espn.com, to hear him mispronounce another college player’s name keep it tuned here.”

4. Start the games when they’re supposed to start. If the ticket says game time is 1pm start the game at 1pm and not 1:08pm. This is another network TV commercial related thing, but come on would it really be so hard to at least shoot for an :04 start time? All the chatter before the game is just lettuce on a steak sandwhich.

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