bunt sign

Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Tomorrow I'm going to a baseball game that starts at the ridiculous hour of 4:00 in the afternoon. That's when the lighting is at its absolute worst for hitters and fielders trying to see the ball coming at them. Most games start at either 1:00 pm, or at dusk. Games are meant to be played in the afternoon sun, but an acceptable alternative is under a bank of bright lights. Some of the worst games ever played have started at 4:00.

So why would a game start at 4:00? This one is for the convenience of east coast television viewers. I'm not sure folks in the east are all that interested in a game between teams from San Francisco and Los Angeles, but they're going to have the opportunity to see batters flailing away at pitches they can't see, while those of us who have paid for tickets have to try to get off work early to watch the spectacle.

This is my only chance this season to see the Giants play their hated rivals, so I'm going despite the inconvenience. Most of the games ESPN shows on its Wednesday night package start at 7:00 in the east, which means that 4:00 is a time I'm used to watching a game on TV. I wouldn't want them to delay the broadcast until 7:00 if it would mean seeing a game on tape. Sporting events demand to be watched live, as they happen.

Now NBC, which has U.S. rights to the Olympics for the next thousand years or so, has told us that the Winter Games from Salt Lake City next February will be shown live in the Eastern, Central and Mountain time zones. This is an improvement over coverage of the Sydney Olympics last year, which were delayed as much as twenty-four hours. Great hue and cry went up over that poor judgment by NBC.

Somehow the network geniuses have determined that the west coast doesn't deserve to watch the Salt Lake City games live. They plan to delay the telecast by two and a half hours. We'll have the privilege of watching events that the rest of the country has seen live on tape delay, at 7:30 instead of 5:00. In other words, long after scores and results have been downloaded into our computers by CNN and Yahoo, we'll be able to catch up with what's been happening just over the Utah state line.

In the Bay Area, there's a further complication. KRON-TV, channel 4, which has been an NBC affiliate for fifty years, is being replaced by a station in San Jose that is paying the network a huge sum for the right to broadcast its programming. The owners of KNTV, channel 11, are in no position to challenge the high-handed tactics of the decision makers in New York, who have apparently decided that the west coast doesn't matter, as long as it can charge prime time ad rates for its Olympic commercials.

Here in the North Bay, we don't even get channel 11. I don't know if we'll be seeing such fine NBC programs as Fear Factor (or The Weakest Link, or Cursed — do these people know how to label their own dreck, or what?) after January 1, 2002, anyway, although I suspect that the cable and satellite systems will find a way to bring in the distant signal.

Whatever interest I have in speed skaters and freestyle skiers drops down to about zero when I'm being shown something that happened three hours ago. It's even lower than that if I already know the results. I can't see myself spending three and a half hours a night for two weeks watching NBC's old video tapes of lurching luges. I might as well wait for the late news and catch the highlights.

What they're betting is that the casual viewer will tune in to the delayed coverage without caring whether it's live or taped. And they may well be right. But I take it personally. It's a slight to anyone who takes pleasure in the immediacy of the event itself.

And it's especially insulting to people who follow winter sports more closely than I do, even in non-Olympic years. For them it's the equivalent of showing the World Series or the Super Bowl on tape. We even see live coverage of NFL Europe, as it happens in Amsterdam and Frankfurt. The Oscars are shown live on the west coast, even though they start in the middle of the afternoon.

I don't mind watching something at an awkward time, if it's more convenient for the rest of the country. I accept that east coast audiences have to be accommodated. I'll go to my four o'clock baseball game tomorrow and like it. But I resent being a second class citizen when it comes to a worldwide event like the Olympics.

If the games were in, say, San Francisco, would they still show them live in the rest of the country, and give us the canned version?

blue blooms with blur

The blur in the center is a hummingbird, captured a split-second too late.

If I wanted to watch the Olympics after they happen, I'd drag out my old tapes of Torvill and Dean from Sarajevo in 1984. Even live, no one in Salt Lake City in 2002 is likely to match those performances for freshness and dramatic tension.

Or I could record the live events on TiVo and watch them when I get around to it.

previousbunt signemailnext

Latest recommendations:

Renee, Notes to Myself, June 25, Dearest Renee

Heather, more.than.this, entry for June 26

Terri, *FootNotes*, June 26, Dances With Carrots

Recent recommendations can be found on the links page.
Subscribe to the list to be notified of updates.