Tonight one baseball has settled into its familiar rhythm, the national championship for college basketball will tip off. The best sports tournament in the world has come down to one final game between two very worthy contenders. Storylines abound: Duke has gone from being the most hated team in the nation to the beneficiary of a UK related amnesty and mauled Michigan State to reach this game. Wisconsin hasn't been in the national title game since before the United States entered World War II and comes back now with a colorful coach and a roster clearly having fun with their run.
You could go on and on about things to watch in this game, because the plotlines in one game to decide a championship are endless. How do Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor match up? Will Traevon Jackson play even more than he did against UK? Will Justise Winslow continue his excellent play of the last couple of weeks? However, staying awake to see those stories play out will be beyond half the country, because the game tips at 9:18pm.
That's immediately an issue for those of us trying to raise the next generation of college basketball fans. Children under the age of 10 and games wrapping up after midnight are not generally a very good mix. Things can get ugly behaviorally long before the issue of getting limited sleep before school the next morning becomes a priority. There's just no way to keep young children up and happy long enough to see the end of a tournament that they have been following just as assiduously as everyone else. Instead, they'll be forced to ask what happened in the morning and parents will be forced to deal with the fact that lesser sports like football schedule much better.
Speaking of parents, I hope you aren't working a morning shift tomorrow. The median United States worker arrives to start the day at 7:55am after a 25 minute commute. Assuming the bare minimum of acceptable hygiene practices and absolutely no time to eat, work out, or whatever else people do in the morning, that means at most six hours of sleep for the average worker who catches the whole game. Want to see postgame coverage (One Shining Moment didn't start until almost 12:30 last year) or maybe share a glass OJ with your significant other in the morning? Chop farther into that already short night of sleep. God help you if you are asked to report to work before the normal time.
So why does the game start so late? Between 20-22% of the nation lives in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, and an earlier start would necessitate some of them starting the game late. While that may have been a concern in the days before DVR, it should be less so now. Again, reviewing the times people have to be to work and the average eight hour day, even those in the westernmost of time zones on the continent would be less than a half an hour behind a game that started at 8pm instead of an hour later. This before considering the reasoning behind inconveniencing 80% of the populace to cater to 20%.
It doesn't much matter though, because they game is now firmly entrenched at the later start. So either put some coffee on and expect a long night, or set the timer so you have a full pot in the morning. If your kids are diehard fans, consider calling them in sick for school tomorrow or sending in a note to explain to the teacher why tears have become the default answer to everything. This should be a great game, it's a shame that watching it will be such a pain.