Gene's Blog: Less is more, on two sporting fronts...

Gene Mueller's Blog

About damn time. Times two.

Major League Baseball and the NFL came to their senses this week on unrelated fronts. As part of MLB's new collective bargaining agreement reached this week, home field for the World Series will no longer be decided by the outcome of that summer's All- Star Game. Meanwhile, the NFL is giving Thursday night games a once-over amid declining ratings as well as complaints from the rank and file.

And the crowds rejoiced.

Unlike other All Star games, baseball's was fine, pitting the best from rival leagues against each other. It was the one worth watching, as opposed to the dreck the other pro leagues serve up: NBA and NHL All Star clashes are devoid of defense, and the NFL's flat-out unwatchable. 

Then July 9, 2002 happened in Milwaukee when both squads ran out of players and the game ended in a tie, an embarrassment for Commissioner Bud Selig on the night he was showing the world that baseball was alive and well at brand new Miller Park. To give the game new seriousness, Selig got game's overlords to agree to make home field advantage for that fall's World Series dependent on the outcome of the Midsummer Classic. Such things should be decided by season records, if nothing else to give teams way out in front late in the season something to play for, to give late-season games some heft. Plus, who-plays-where come October isn't something that should be decided by All Stars in July. It just...shouldn't.

The possibility of the NFL dialing back Thursday night offerings comes as The Shield has to confront the chance that maybe, just maybe, we don't want pro football on TV three nights a week. Ratings are down, and that means networks have to do commercial make-goods if advertisers don't get the audiences the NFL promised. You can bet THAT, more than anything else, is driving this. It's not about over-saturation--although most would agree there are too many tilts. It's not about player safety--is it ever? It's not about coaches' complaints about planning issues--suck it up, buttercup. A friend of mine likes to say, "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered" and maybe, just maybe, Commissioner Roger Godell is seeing the truth in that. 

Prime time pro football was a novelty when it came to Monday nights in 1970 and games were must-watch events. Lots changed in the 46 years since, the most important being the fact that sports now happen every night of the week thanks to the cable/digital option. Miss a Monday night back in the day and you'd be the odd man out Tuesday morning when the talk turned to "Did you see that play?" Not so much on a typical Friday morning today.

Baseball's All Star game, the way we remember it, played for bragging rights, plus little else. And Thursday nights in the fall, freed up for more reality TV,  Two sports, making the right kind of tweaks for the good of their respective games.

Now, if only the NFL can tell me what a catch is...

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