Monday, October 27, 2014

The Short Game

The other night, the Boston Celtics played a 44-minute exhibition game against the Brooklyn Nets. Since NBA games are usually 48 minutes in length, this was puzzling. Why did they do that? Apparently, the folks in charge of professional basketball feel the younger generation are being lost because they don't have the attention span for longer games. They're thinking of shortening the games in an effort to lure more fans.

It's Marketing 101 to give people more as an enticement, not less. Whichever business school graduated the genius behind this harebrained idea should be stripped of its certification immediately. Take this ploy to a logical conclusion and you'd have to believe that customers will give you the most money when you deliver no product at all.

(Well, OK, that's often true in government, so maybe it's possible in sports.)

I'm amazed at the so-called fans of a sport who will defend shorter games. Quite a few supposed baseball fans have been decrying the length of baseball games. They keep advocating ways to speed up and shorten the game. I look at those folks the same way I'd look at a person who professes love for someone but then says he wishes he didn't have to spend so much damn time with her.

I know some younger fans of baseball will find this hard to believe, but there used to be these things called “doubleheaders”. Not just two games in one day; they still have those occasionally, played one in daylight and one at night, separate admissions for both. What I'm talking about is two games in one day, played back-to-back and requiring only ONE admission. It was the best bargain in sport. You got to spend 7 or 8 hours at the ballpark for the same price as one game on any other day. It wasn't a travail. It wasn't something to be endured. It wasn't a whole bunch of people in a hurry constantly looking at their watches and moaning about how long it was taking while they fretted about missing the next thing they wanted to do. It was a ballpark, often full of kids – that is, future fans - who appreciated a bargain.

If you find that hard to believe, try this on for size. The Celtics used to offer their fans basketball doubleheaders. It wasn't the Celts playing two games in a row – basketball is a bit too strenuous for that – but there would be a game, before the home team played, involving either two other NBA teams or the Harlem Globetrotters and their Washington Generals patsies.

And now they're offering not two games, but one shorter game in an attempt to build their fan base. If it works, I expect we'll someday see PGA golf tournaments on putt-putt courses, hockey games where first goal wins, and soccer games consisting only of a tie-breaking shootout. I do believe, though, that there's one area where this idea of shortening things to make them more valuable might work: political campaigns. Can we get the NBA marketing team to work on that?

Soon, with more better stuff.