By Dave Wischnowsky–
Believe it, or not, the basketball – even with its combined 94 points, collective 26 percent shooting and pair of cutting-edge peach baskets – wasn’t the most sleep-inducing part of last night’s NCAA national championship game.
Rather, it was the start time.
I’m currently on a business trip in Michigan, which is located in the Eastern Time Zone – you know, the same one that the hometowns of both the national champion Huskies (Storrs) the bridesmaid Bulldogs (Indianapolis) sit inside.
And it gets late early out here.
Last night, the championship game tipped off just before 9:30 p.m. local time. So late that by the time I got to a popular bar near my hotel in Grand Rapids – at just 9:38 p.m. – its kitchen was already closing. Upon learning that, I told the bartender to cancel my drink order.
“Are you sure?” she said.
“A guy’s gotta eat,” I said, as I got up from my seat, my stomach grumbling.
More than two hours later – after I’d found another place still serving food past a sixth grader’s bed time – Luther Vandross wrapped up his rendition of “One Shining Moment” at 11:53 p.m., so late that I almost wondered if the sun was already shining afterward.
Now, I personally can’t stand the Eastern Time Zone, just like many Central Time Zone transplants I know who have found themselves living in it.
“I will never live on the East Coast again,” one friend wrote me in a text message last night. “If I do, I won’t abide by their time rules.”
“It’s turrible,” wrote another Eastern Seaboard buddy, quoting Charles Barkley as he thought about rising early for work on Tuesday morning.
But that’s not the point of this blog entry. The Eastern Time Zone is what it is. It’s not going to change. Instead, my question is why the NCAA continues to feel compelled to schedule tipoff for its marquee event at 9:23 p.m.
I know it’s to appease West Coast basketball fans, who are living in a world that’s three hours earlier than the East. And it’s, to generate better TV ratings. In theory, at least. But last night, my guess is that the title game – featuring two schools farflung from California – wasn’t going to be a particularly enormous draw on the West Coast, no matter what time it started.
Now, the championship game is slated for TV well before we know which teams will be playing in the game, of course. But why can’t the NCAA either 1) schedule the game for 7:45 p.m. Central Time (making it a more reasonable 8:45 p.m. in the East and a not unreasonable 5:45 p.m. in the West), or 2) put some flex in its TV schedule to accommodate fans of the title game’s schools?
If a western school is playing, go ahead and tip the game at 9:23 Eastern. I won’t complain. But if at least one western team isn’t in the game, move the start time up at least a half an hour. It really wouldn’t be that difficult. And I’d appreciate it – especially on a school (work) night.
Who knows, maybe some kids in the eastern half of the U.S. might actually even be awake to watch “One Shining Moment” and properly fall in love with the sport.
Regardless, college basketball needs to work on its clock management.
Now, excuse me while I doze off…
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.