Get your caffeine pills ready because the least fan friendly championship among the four major American pro sports is about to get worse, starting Thursday night.
Check out this schedule:
Game 1 (Thursday): Cavaliers at Warriors, 9:00 PM ET
Game 2 (Sunday, June 5): Cavaliers at Warriors, 8:00 PM ET
Game 3 (Wednesday, June 8): Warriors at Cavaliers, 9:00 PM ET
Game 4 (Friday, June 10): Warriors at Cavaliers, 9:00 PM ET
Game 5* (Monday, June 13): Cavaliers at Warriors, 9:00 PM ET
Game 6* (Thursday, June 16): Warriors at Cavaliers, 9:00 PM ET
Game 7* (Sunday, June 19): Cavaliers at Warriors, 8:00 PM ET
For starters, five of the seven potential NBA Finals games between the Cavaliers and Warriors tip-off at 9:00 PM ET, per usual (the only exceptions are Game 2 and Game 7, which have 8:00 PM ET tips because they are on Sundays).
Why do NBA Finals games always start so late?
History has shown the NBA that this is the optimal time for maximum ratings because it allows people on the West Coast to get home from work before the games start. The problem is that about 50 percent of the country’s population operates on Eastern Standard Time and unless you are in college or a 20-something, 11:30 PM is likely well past your normal bedtime.
It’s not just the NBA, though. World Series start times have been the subject of debate for a number of years. Last night’s hockey game (granted it was an early overtime finish) ended around 11:10 PM ET. The College Football Playoff Championship Game kicked off at 8:30 PM ET (and ending past midnight) and the NCAA title game between North Carolina and Villanova started at an absurdly late 9:19 PM ET.
Making the Finals schedule even more arduous is the fact that all but one game (Game 4) is on a school/work night. That’s because the NBA avoids Friday and Saturday night Finals games like the plague, which results in:
A. Losing out on casual viewers who just won’t watch the games if they are played on a Friday or Saturday night, and
B. Having people watch in groups and at bars instead of individually at home, which hurts Nielsen ratings.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the NBA announced last year that starting with this NBA Finals, teams will get two days of rest each time the Finals changes location after switching to a 2-2-1-1-1 format two years ago from the old 2-3-2 arrangement.
That means only one game (Game 4) would be played within a span of 48 hours from the previous one and if the Cavs-Warriors series goes a full seven games, the NBA Finals will take 18 days — almost a full three weeks — before ending on June 19.
Hell, the entire 2016 Summer Olympics from Rio are only 16 days total.
People have complained for years about the late tip times of the NBA Finals and said that the league’s greed for high ratings will come back to haunt them in future years when kids who weren’t able to stay up for the NBA Finals aren’t fans of the sport like the generation before them.
Well, until that line of thinking is reflected in the ratings with the number of East Coasters going to bed before the games end outweighs the number of West Coasters getting home from work before the games begin, don’t expect the NBA to change the tip-off times for Finals games anytime soon.
Considering last year’s Finals broke the post-Michael Jordan record for average viewers (19.94 million), this year’s rematch should get even better numbers with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love playing for Cleveland.
So expect to be plenty entertained the next couple weeks, you East Coasters. Just don’t anticipate much sleep.