West Coasters like to complain that there is an East Coast bias in sports. Want to know why that is? It’s because the sports world ticks on Eastern Standard Time.
The sports Gods (also known as the commissioners of the major sports leagues) maximize viewership by ensuring that games start at primetime on the East Coast—the West is merely an afterthought.
I have had the Eastern time versus Western time conversation (argument?) with enough Californians since moving here from New York to understand the merits of both sides—and to be honest, I think the ideal time zone for sports viewing is the Central Time Zone—and I have decided that East is definitely better than West.
Let me start by posing a question. What do you like to eat while watching NFL games? Bar food I believe would be a pretty standard answer to that question—chicken wings, burgers, nachos, etc. However, that doesn’t sound all that appetizing at 10 a.m. Football is not made for waffles and pancakes.
Take it a step further. What do you want to drink while watching football? There is a reason there are countless beer commercials during football games—beer is the beverage of choice. Do you want a tasty cold one at 10 a.m.? (Don’t answer that question.) I don’t see Tropicana advertising during football games.
On the East Coast, football games start at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., which allows you to have a productive morning before plopping on the couch all afternoon. And if you’re the tailgating type, you can have quite the epic day leading up to a 4 p.m. local start. Out West, you are stuck on the couch through almost all of the daylight hours—especially if you want to watch Sunday Night Football. If you want to tailgate you’d better be an early riser.
Which brings me to my next point—night games. The biggest argument against East Coast sporting events is how late you sometimes have to stay up to see the ends of games. At least you have the choice to stay up and watch. On the West Coast, Monday Night Football, playoff games in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, as well as college football bowl games and college basketball games, all start while much of the population is still in its offices or en route home from work. People literally can’t watch the games without ditching work.
Imagine being a San Francisco Giants fan who could not watch the World Series games that started around 5 p.m. local time because of work. This was the case for plenty of “diehard” fans, I am sure. If given a choice to have the game start after work and being allowed to decide whether to stay up for the end, I’m sure almost all Giants fans would accept that option.
Meanwhile, fans of the Texas Rangers, in Central Time, could enjoy the 7 p.m. start and decide whether or not to stay up for the game’s finish. I would always rather have the choice than to have my hand forced.
Since this is catered to a college crowd, let’s think about sleep schedules for a second. I’m betting more of you are likely to be awake at midnight or 12:30 a.m., when the latest games on the East Coast—normally Monday Night Football—end, than 9 a.m. on Saturdays when the first college football games often begin.
When it comes to the NFL, waking up for 10 a.m. games is hard enough for many West Coasters, especially us college-aged folks. 1 p.m. is less of a struggle, I’d say.
NCAA basketball tournament games may be the most difficult, actually. Unlike many of the college football games that start early in the morning, and the NFL games at 10 a.m. which many West Coasters may not be interested in, every game of the NCAA Tournament matters to many fans (at least those that filled out a bracket). These games start early in the day, and can often include West Coast teams. When I was a freshman (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) Stanford played Louisville in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 9:30 a.m. PST! It was terrible for us fans, and awful for the team, who looked asleep while getting blown off the court by Louisville.
The early-morning effect on traveling West Coast teams is well-documented (just ask the 2009 Stanford football team about its trip to Wake Forest), so I won’t dwell on that too long. I will just say that whatever makes players tired also makes fans tired.
Like I said before, there is a happy medium, which those Rangers fans enjoy. People knock the middle of the country, but when it comes to sports viewing there is probably no better place. Still, push me to choose and it is East over West any day.
Daniel Bohm used to ride a T-Rex to class every day. Ask him how to train your dinosaur at [email protected].