Sunday, April 14, 2013
the last book I ever read (David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game, excerpt eighteen)
from The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam:
Who was to explain to Luke about sweeps, a word from the world of television, the thrice-yearly periods when the networks got their report cards on ratings? Or the unfortunate fact, for professional basketball players and fans, that one of the sweeps fell in May? Since basketball’s ratings were very low, it meant that CBS would prefer not to broadcast the games during its regular hours, since they would thus emerge with a smaller share of the pie than NBC and ABC. “Stayed up until two o’clock in the morning, thanks to those television people,” Luke said. “Why do you think CBS didn’t carry it?” a reporter asked him. “I know why,” said Luke, “but I’m not saying. You know what it is. The same thing that it always is.” The implication was clear. It was race, basketball was the blackest of the sports.
So it was that in the middle of its massive contract with the NBA, CBS bailed out of the playoffs. The implication of this was clear enough to anyone on either side of the marriage, sports or broadcast: if CBS did not think the playoffs, the denouement of the season, worthy of prime-time coverage, how much longer would it even bother with the regular season? So on that day Maurice Lucas was angry, but the owners were scared.