Mark Gilleo: A championship dream

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There is a great inequality in this country, and it has nothing to do with wealth, education or medical care. It isn’t about job flight, race relations, or tax reform. This great inequality is determined purely on where a person lives and nothing short of moving west can alleviate the prejudice. Thankfully, this great inequality can be rectified by the acceptance of a few common sense arguments by one of our country’s greatest assets – the American Marketing Machine.

Let me explain it in simple terms. I enjoy sports. The NBA. The NFL. Hockey. College basketball. College Football. As an American male, there is nothing remotely unique about this statement. But as a nearly middle-aged man, I have not watched the conclusion of a major sporting event in several years (Save Wimbledon, which is played in England, and golf, which they don’t play at night.) Why?

Because, like 47% of the American population, I live on the east coast, in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. Like 51% of the population, I am married. Like 80% of the working population, I work something close to 9-5 with a job that requires me to function in the morning. Staying awake until 11:30, particularly on a school or work night, while it can be done, it is not done without serious repercussions.

For the sake of argument, I will use Monday Night Football, an American icon, for illustrative purposes. For those who are not aware, Monday Night Football, on the East Coast, usually starts at 8:30. A typical football game runs three hours, or often a bit longer.

With those parameters in mind, let’s consider “Mr. California” as our first example: Mr. California, single and good-looking, leaves work at 5:00 PM on Monday, settles into his bar stool at 5:30, and watches the football game until its conclusion at 8:30 PM, West Coast Time. Mr. California then decides he wants to burn off some of the calories he just consumed, so he heads to the gym, returns home, takes out the trash, and is in bed by 10:00, if he so chooses.

On the other coast, we have Mr. Virginia. Mr. Virginia gets off work at 5:00 and arrives home at 5:30. Between the hours of 5:30 and 8:30, Mr. Virginia has dinner, runs on the treadmill, takes the trash out, and eventually settles on the sofa in his sweatpants for the 8:30 kickoff. At halftime, Mr. Virginia decides to move to the bedroom for the conclusion of the game. Out of prudence and experience, he sets the DVR to record the rest of the game, just in case. At approximately 11:30 PM, Mr. Virginia wakes to cheering erupting from the TV. The TV remote control is on the floor and there is a large drool stain on his pillow. Mr. Virginia quickly turns the television off so as to not see the score of the game. The following morning, Mr. Virginia watches the second half of the game on his DVR, fast-forwarding through most of the plays and all of the commercials while consuming his first cup of coffee for the day.

As a sports fan, who would you rather be?

I understand the US is a big country. But there is a burning question here that seems to be ignored by the American Marketing Machine. It is in the simplicity of this burning question where there is promise for a solution. If business school taught me anything – and believe me there are times when I wonder – it was that the purpose of advertising is to reach as many potential consumers for a product as possible within a given budget. The biggest bang for the buck. Running with the assumption – that the point of advertising is to reach customers in order to sell products – I am at a loss to explain how the American Marketing Machine overlooks the difficulty of selling products to a population that is asleep. It would seem that losing members of the largest geographical population should be enough incentive to change the start time of most evening sporting events.

And I am not picking on Monday Night Football. The same argument is true for the NCAA basketball championship, the NBA Finals, the College Football Championship. The list goes on.

What is so important about the East Coast when it comes to sports? Let’s take a look at the cities within Eastern Standard Time: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore. More importantly, since the year 2000, those cities and others in the EST, have accounted for the following: 9 Super Bowl champions, 7 World Series Champions, 5 Stanley Cup winners, 13 NCAA basketball Championships, and 4 NBA champions. Not a shabby run for fourteen years.

I will conclude with the most egregious and dare I say ill-timed sporting event of all time – the Super Bowl. There is not enough evidence in NSA servers to convince me that moving the Super Bowl to Saturday night will not benefit everyone. I have heard anecdotal arguments that the term “Super Bowl Sunday” holds a level of brand recognition that cannot be replaced.

Let me be the first to say that “Super Bowl Saturday” sounds twice as appealing as “Super Bowl Sunday.” “Super Bowl Saturday” sells more pizza. “Super Bowl Saturday” sells more beer. (A lot more beer). “Super Bowl Saturday” sells a lot more Alka Seltzer and Advil for Sunday morning. Super Bowl Saturday opens up the possibility for Sunday morning brunches that replay highlights of the previous night’s game and the best commercials. Super Bowl Saturday allows most of Asia and Australia to watch the game on Sunday, not on Monday morning. The advantages are endless.

…Or maybe I’m just being selfish.


Mark Gilleo

Mark Gilleo is the author of two nationally bestselling books, Love Thy Neighbor and Sweat.

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On January 26, 2015
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