On Friday, February 17, the Yale men’s hockey team faced off against the No. 3 team in the country: none other than the former home of the Unabomber, Harvard University.
Okay, that was a cheap shot, but it serves a point. The spirit of rivalry is what makes playing Harvard so exciting; students who otherwise wouldn’t attend a game show up in droves to watch their school take on its ancient foe. Yalies bear signs and wear face paint. They tailgate beforehand and go out after. The energy in the stadium is unmatched. The noise level, unsurpassable.
But on that February night, the atmosphere at Ingalls Rink was bereft of its vivacity. The student section was quiet, with most of the students’ eyes glued to their phones rather than the ice.
There is a perfectly logical explanation for this: that same night, the Yale men’s basketball team tipped off against Princeton. The Elis were 12–3 in their previous 15 games entering that contest, with one of those rare losses coming against the New Jersey Suburb Dwellers. At that point, Yale was tied for second in the conference, behind only — you guessed it — the Tigers. Suffice to say, that basketball game was a big one.
So Yale’s fan base was split. Which game should one attend? Half of my friends decided to watch the most important basketball game of the season. The other half, however, chose to attend the hockey game against the team in the world’s ugliest shade of red. The only common ground amongst fans on that night was that whichever game you attended did not receive your full attention.
In college sports, such unfortunate timing is somewhat unavoidable. The school year is a fixed schedule, the timeline predetermined. Collegiate sports seasons follow the Earth’s, leaving little flexibility. To fit the long basketball and hockey regular seasons after the fall, but before the spring, it is necessary for them to start concurrently.
But the collegiate time restraints do not apply to professional sports. Which is why I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why I have to choose between watching a National Hockey League or a National Basketball Association playoff game. It seems fairly outrageous that their respective first rounds begin within three days of each other and continue to overlap thereafter.
With that said, I know that some people enjoy the chaos of the commercial swap; my dad has mastered the art with the deft touch of a pointillist. But I, for one, would rather watch one whole game at the risk of being accosted by remarkably unoriginal Papa John’s commercials, than toggle between games during breaks, avoiding the sight of Peyton Manning in every ad but missing large chunks of both games. The problem with my TV watching style is that, while I witness a whole game, I also miss a whole game.
In leagues where nearly every aspect has been commercialized, why haven’t the business moguls that own these teams concluded that their first-round playoff viewership, and therefore their advertising profit margins, would be far higher if they didn’t have to compete with another major sport’s playoff games? It’s ironic that the ice that the NHL players skate on has advertisements on it, but yet I find myself begrudgingly diverted to the advertisements on the base of an NBA hoop. Why would businesses that eke money out of the very surface on which their athletes play, sacrifice their own playoff viewership by competing with each other?
Instead of starting within a week of each other, why don’t the NHL and the NBA stagger their regular seasons by a month? That way, their playoff games — where the real money lies — start a month apart.
Luckily — or really unluckily, might be more accurate — for me, I am a diehard Philadelphia sports fan. Which, in layman’s terms, means that I never have to decide which of my city’s team’s playoff games I’ll watch … because absolutely none of our teams make the playoffs.
But, nevertheless, should the time come that my many millennia of trusting the process results in playoff berths, I will face the dark plight of my brethren in Boston or Chicago, or even the Bay Area. By then, I hope the corporate instincts of the NHL and NBA will have already kicked in, so that I may watch the NHL playoffs one month, and the NBA playoffs the next.
Kevin Bendesky is a sophomore in Trumbull College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .