October 19, 2010
On Monday night, a terrible football game got a better rating than an excellent baseball playoff game, and to listen to some in the sports media, you'd think this was the biggest injustice since [choose your own gross historical injustice].
Bill Simmons -- "If this piece of crap NFL game doubles the rating for a terrific playoff baseball game, the 'America's pastime' label is dead."
Deadspin's Barry Petchesky -- "Explain yourselves, America. I want you to tell me why you watched Monday Night Football last night. And don't you dare say 'Oh, I don't care about the Rangers or Yankees.' I know damn well no one cares about the Titans or Jaguars."
CNBC's Darren Rovell -- "Horrific Monday Night Football game OUTRATES Game 3 of ALCS. MNF gets 7.2 overnight on ESPN. Yanks-Rangers gets 6.5 on TBS."
I'm not sure which surprises me more: the outrage or the surprise. Anyone who thought a baseball game on TBS would outrate football on ESPN was either waxing nostalgic or doesn't pay attention to television ratings. This can be summed up in one simple math equation -- football > baseball. (And one more: ESPN > TBS. I watched "Seinfeld" reruns every night, but I still can't remember which channel TBS is on my new cable guide. Not many casual TV viewers are stumbling upon TBS to find the ALCS.)
The whole thing sounds exactly like the "I can't believe NBC got rid of Conan O'Brien" dust-up from earlier this year. Most of the people complaining about Conan getting screwed were the ones who ignored his show in the first place. I was on Team Coco, but how many times did I tune into his show after the first week? If it wasn't zero, it was awfully close to it.
Simmons is doing the same thing here. He's aghast that baseball does a worse rating than an awful football game, but in the past four months he's written a column about the NFL 13 times, compared to just once for baseball. (And that was titled "Is the honeymoon over for baseball?") Deadspin is all football all the time, and for good reason: People. Like. Football. More. We all know this, it's been true for years. Why does one night of ratings generate so much surprise?
More importantly, why should it matter to anyone besides television executives? This is America, people. Watch what you want to watch.
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