Author: Mike Deak
Sometimes just a simple question can spark a morning of debate.
Normal work routine has me listening to Chicago sports talk radio as they usually trigger my a.m. brain movement more than any pounding at the desk would. And being a Chicago sports fanatic – yes fanatic – thinking about the Bears or Cubs or Hawks first thing in the morning is not only routine but desired.
So I had on the radio and the World Series was brought up in comparison to weekend numbers for the NFL. And with two games this weekend between the Giants and Rangers, they went head-to-head against the monsters that are college and pro football. And barely kept pace.
The Game 3 win by Texas, played in one of the top TV markets in the United States in Dallas, drew just a 6.7 overnight rating, the second-lowest rating ever to the 2008 Philly-Tampa game that was delayed by rain. The pivotal Game 4 did rise to a 10.4 mark, but going directly against the Saints-Steelers game which drew an 11.8 and the game prior to the WS game, Minnesota at New England, drew a 17.0 as Favre got his face split open and ego chucked while Randy Moss declared that he is not talking to anyone but himself the rest of the season. Fine.
What does it all mean? Well, for one, baseball needs to revisit its schedule. I’m not a financial guru or even armchair GM, but MLB really needs to look at retracting its schedule to either 154 or 144 games. The inclusion of the Wild Card and off days (let’s face it, for advertising on TV purposes) draws the postseason out another two to three weeks. Right into the heart of the NFL schedule.
Baseball would be wise to shorten its season with the regular season ending in early September. The sports buzz is at a yearly high in September, but the NFL animal is just beginning. To market against the NFL in September would be a smarter choice than late October and November when the NFL is firmly reestablishing itself in households. While MLB may not win the ratings battle, it won’t be faced with mid-season storylines that have built itself over half an NFL season – Moss returning to New England after being traded just weeks prior and Pittsburgh heading to New Orleans in primetime. Even college football is still working out its contractual tweeks in September when most conferences are getting its mandatory 12th game in when Ohio St. takes on Youngstown St. and Penn St. hosts Temple.
The radio conversation also begged of the matchup. Does anyone really care if the feel-good Giants and ever more feel-good Rangers play each other? Ratings says no. Purists say yes. The east coast media and pundits say no.
Would the Cubs make the World Series any more watchable? Absolutely.
There are few teams in sports that carry weight like the Cubs. For all the ballywho and Lovable Loser crap that comes with the franchise, there is also a very wide and ardent fanbase. The Yanks and Red Sox may be the only other two teams in the league that can bring fans on the road like the Cubs can. Just think back to the 2003 playoffs (I know, the PAIN), but Atlanta was referred to as “Wrigley South” and Dolphin Stadium was at least half full (pun) of Cubs fans for the Marlins series. A trip to Cincinnati during the regular season three years ago, just for a weekend set with the Reds, easily had half of the red seats in Cincinnati filled with Cubby Blue. Myself included for three games.
While everyone is either love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Brett Favre, Notre Dame football, Duke basketball and the Cubs just draw. Doesn’t matter if they are good or bad. The Cowboys game against the Jaguars in Dallas had a similar TV ratings as the Rangers playing in the same city on the same day, and the Cowboys are horrible and playing without its franchise quarterback.
The Cubs would also have the allure of the 102-year media tag, and there would be no end to the ESPN overhype and the Fox fan shots of the same four ladies in the crowd holding their hands over their mouthes desperately waiting to see if Zambrano can strike out the side in the third inning and the guy wearing the pink hat behind home plate would ever show a smile.
And the seat where Bartman sat, the Billy Goat Tavern, the jamooks on Waveland with their fishing nets and Old Styles, all the circumstance. It just comes with the product.
It may not be able to save the slow death that is the MLB postseason, but it would certainly inject a fire. So C’Mon Cubs, do something about it.