SBJ/Nov. 8-14, 2010/Opinion

From World Series vs. NFL to Wizards vs. Bullets

There was plenty of talk last week about the ratings “matchup” between the NFL and the World Series. Going head-to-head on Sunday, Oct. 31, the Steelers-Saints game on NBC drew 18.1 million viewers, while Game 4 of the Giants-Rangers on Fox earned 15.5 million. The following night, the Texans-Colts game earned 11.9 million viewers on ESPN, while the deciding Game 5 on Fox drew 15 million.

Is a debate really necessary? It’s been argued in this space repeatedly: Nothing beats the strength of the NFL. Period. This was just more evidence of that.

Two random, regular-season games went up against World Series action and it was close to a split decision. For MLB, the ratings were fine, not great. Fox and MLB surely got hurt for the risk they took with earlier start times — something that we’ve praised here. But those early times contributed to the 8.4 rating being tied for the lowest in World Series history. MLB still delivered prime-time wins for Fox, but reversing the trend would be helped by having a seven-game Series, which MLB hasn’t had since 2002.

The NBA clearly benefited from a seven-game Lakers-Celtics series, which resulted in a 10.6 series rating. Armchair quarterbacks will likely start comparing MLB numbers not to the NFL, but to the NBA, as for the second time in three years, the NBA Finals finished ahead of the World Series, after Series ratings topped the NBA Finals every year from 1999 through 2007.

Ted Leonsis won’t bring the Bullets name back to the city’s NBA franchise, citing time and cost. After Leonsis bought the team, there was speculation that he would revert to the name and colors to restore tradition. In the end, he said a return to red, white and blue likely will take place, but the Wizards name rules.

This was a delicate decision. A name change would have been seen as a public slap to Abe Pollin, who made the move away from “Bullets” as a statement against the increasing violence in Washington, D.C. While “Bullets” harks back to the team’s championship days, a change would have deeply disturbed Pollin’s family and friends and insulted his tremendous legacy in the city.

NBA basketball in our nation’s capital is a sleeping giant, and if anyone can make the sport maximize its potential, it’s Leonsis. The thinking here is he made another sound decision.

Fascinating fact from a New York Times analysis on political spending: Republican ad buyers favored sports, buying nearly three times as many ads as Democrats on college/pro football, NASCAR and MLB games. Properties can tout diverse fan bases, but GOP ad buyers bought where the men were, and Republican-leaning men watch sports.

We were saddened to see NASCAR recently lose two respected executives. First, Jeff Byrd, the consummate track president who had run SMI’s Bristol Motor Speedway since 1996, passed away after a lengthy illness. Then NASCAR lost longtime communications czar Jim Hunter to lung cancer. I always left my conversations with Jim feeling better for it; he brimmed with a passion and a kindness that you had to admire. It’s a shame that as NASCAR searches for a new chief communications exec, that person won’t be able to learn from Hunter’s style and deep historical knowledge.

Abraham Madkour is executive editor of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. He can be reached at

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