Good thing NFL players don’t feel about weekend matinee games the way many NBA players do, or that “on any Sunday” league would have a real problem on its hands.
Afternoon tipoffs are nothing new on the NBA scene – they’re everywhere on holidays such as Christmas and Dr. Martin Luther King Day – and in fact, they date back to a series of early TV broadcasts by the DuMont Network in 1953-54, when the league put together a series of 13 Saturday matinees.
The word itself is a variation on matin, a French term for morning. Broadway has a history of daytime performances that stretches back to the 19th century, initially scheduled – as one theater operator explained in an old Chicago Tribune feature – for “those who don’t want to stay up at night and those who aren’t allowed to stay up at night.”
Baseball and football traditionally played their games in daylight hours out of necessity, until first electricity, then TV revenues sent them chasing after the evening demographics and ratings. College hoops still has plenty of day games, but the practice remains more exception than rule in the NBA. And like any sort of departure from the norm, maybe that’s why matinees aren’t particularly popular with NBA players.
Of the eight matinees on the NBA schedule so far in 2012-13, five were played this weekend, including a Raptors-Celtics game at TD Garden Saturday that, via ESPNBoston.com, prompted analysis from Boston coach Doc Rivers:
“As a coach, I love them — not because of the game, because it gives you a ton of time after the game to prepare for the next game,” said Rivers, whose squad travels to Detroit after the game to play the Pistons on Sunday. “But as a player, I never liked them. They just come too quick. Most players are creatures of habit. And it just takes you out of your routine. I think this is our only one this year, so that’s the good news.”
Back in Rivers’ playing days, matinee games were hardly a rarity.
“We had tons of them,” Rivers said. “I never liked them, but we had a lot of them. You always thought — during an afternoon game as a player — if you’re playing great, then you loved it that day. But if you’re playing poorly, you thought it was very difficult to pull yourself out of it. You haven’t had your normal mental preparation to get ready for a game. It felt like when you start struggling in an early game, you couldn’t just pull yourself out of it.”
Most average Joes and Janes don’t like it when their work schedules change from day to day or week to week. Then again, a lot of Joes and Janes are appreciative of having work schedules, period, and wouldn’t whine about something as minor as the time their shifts start. The overall record of teams that play matinees, after all, is .500, same as any other start time.
NFL players and coaches grumble about the short weeks and broken routines that come from appearances on Thursday, Sunday and Monday night telecasts. Baseball players have had to navigate an increasing number of day/night doubleheaders when rainouts get made up for maximum gate receipts.
The Knicks, who beat Indiana Sunday at Madison Square Garden, have 10 afternoon home games on their schedule. Rivers’ Celtics play five this season and are 11-4 over the last two-plus seasons on weekend afternoons, despite some veterans like Kevin Garnett who can get ornery about disruptions and early wake-up calls.
The Clippers are used to them from day/night doubleheaders at Staples Center, though the NHL lockout allowed their game against Chicago Saturday to be rebooked with an evening tipoff. Toronto split its pair of matinees this weekend, losing at Boston, then winning at home vs. Orlando Sunday, and its coach Dwane Casey likes not waiting and “worrying all day” when he and his team could be playing.
Still, lethargy can be an issue for players who are more creatures of habit or, for some, simply nocturnal. Lethargy also can be a problem for the fans, who frequently seem more subdued at afternoon events than they are at night.
Certainly there’s more time and maybe more incentive to get properly primed/lubricated for a later tipoff. But then there’s the pesky matter of school nights, shifting the advantage back to earlier starts. For out-of-town groups and school-related promotions, it’s hard to beat daytime.
Ready to go in the afternoon? Prefer basketball as an evening entertainment? Discuss.