What Would – and Should – 32-Team Divisional Alignments Look Like for the NBA and MLB?

America’s major professional team sports leagues have had a long period of stability since the early part of this century, with three leagues sitting at 30 teams while the NFL went forward with 32, but that may be changing. The NHL has already increased the size of its league to 32, and by most accounts the NBA and MLB may follow suit by the end of this decade.

When it comes to organizing leagues into conferences and divisions, 32, as a power of 2, is close to an ideal number; not for nothing did baseball have two eight-team leagues for decades prior to the advent of expansion in 1961. It gives the flexibility to create either four divisions of eight teams each, as in the NHL, or eight of four, as in the NFL – with the latter being more interesting and allowing more schedule flexibility and a greater emphasis on rivalries.

On Sunday Nate Silver gave his ideal divisional alignment for a 32-team MLB, opting to go with eight divisions of four teams. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while myself, and I need to get a post out by the end of the month while buying myself some time to work on more substantial posts I mostly spent this month putting off, so I decided to piggyback off of his proposal to present my own visions for how to divide 32-team leagues not only in MLB, but in the NBA and even NHL as well. 

Read moreWhat Would – and Should – 32-Team Divisional Alignments Look Like for the NBA and MLB?

A Blast from the Past that will Shape the Future: What Does the NHL’s Return to ESPN Mean for the Future of Live Sports Video?

In 2007, after ESPN had screwed over Fox (who had reportedly been thinking of putting the entire Stanley Cup Final on broadcast television) in taking control of the entire NHL broadcast contract and proceeded to barely promote it at all (especially after taking over the NBA contract a few years later) and bump it to ESPN2 if just about anything and everything could be put on ESPN ahead of it, most infamously poker, then turned down a $60 million option to extend the contract in the wake of the lockout leaving the league to turn with their tail between their legs to the outfit then known as the Outdoor Life Network, then made NHL highlights virtually persona non grata on SportsCenter to the consternation of hockey fans who felt ESPN, then at the seeming height of their monopolistic power, was sticking it to any league or entity that didn’t bother to sign a contract with them… if you told hockey fans that ESPN would end up being the entity responsible for putting every game of the Stanley Cup Final on American broadcast television, would they have believed you in a million years?

But indeed, that’s what will happen in four out of the seven years, including (presumably) next year, of ESPN’s new agreement with the NHL announced Wednesday, a deal that will reportedly pay the NHL $400 million a year, close to twice what NBC was paying for only half the national television contract. Perhaps no other recent sports rights deal better captures the shifts in the video (it seems gauche to call it “TV”) business in recent years, and it’s hard to think of one that will have more of an impact (the reported move of Thursday Night Football to largely being exclusive to Amazon feels like more of a paradigm shift but hasn’t been announced yet and may have less relevance to defining the role of linear television going forward). In something that would have been unthinkable, certainly for ESPN, maybe five years ago, this appears to be a deal largely about ABC and ESPN+, with linear ESPN largely an afterthought. 

Read moreA Blast from the Past that will Shape the Future: What Does the NHL’s Return to ESPN Mean for the Future of Live Sports Video?

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Ratings Roundup

Here are US ratings for all but two games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL Network is not rated by Nielsen, so numbers are not available for Avalanche-Wild Game 3 or Lightning-Canadiens Game 4.

There are a number of oddities on this list. At 4.1 million viewers, the finish of the Western Conference Final between the Kings and Blackhawks, airing on NBCSN on a Sunday night, beat both of NBCSN’s Stanley Cup Final games, and wasn’t beaten by Game 1 of the Final by very much (with Game 2’s ratings inflated by having the Belmont Stakes as a lead-in). That was the only non-Final game with more than 2.8 million viewers, broadcast or cable, and only two non-Final games on NBC beat NBCSN’s next-best non-Final game. NBCSN also had the most-watched non-Final game, broadcast or cable, not to involve the Blackhawks: Canadiens-Bruins Game 7. Is this a good sign for NBCSN, or a bad sign for the NHL?

CNBC had the nine least-watched games not on NHL Network, but thanks to inheriting the Blackhawks-Wild second-round series had three games with over a million viewers. Other than those three games, no other CNBC game had over half a million viewers.

Household ratings for games on NBCSN and CNBC through May 11 from Son of the Bronx, from May 12 and later and all NBC numbers from SportsBusiness Daily and Sports Media Watch. 18-49 numbers, when available, from TVbytheNumbers and The Futon Critic.

Read more2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Ratings Roundup

The NHL’s Dirty Little Not-so-secret

I hear hockey fans say that hockey is one of North America’s four major sports.

I hear hockey fans say it’s an outrage that hockey doesn’t get coverage on SportsCenter befitting a major sport.

I hear hockey fans say that, however lukewarm the United States is to hockey, it is so huge in Canada that it makes up for it.

I hear hockey fans say, above all else, they hate Gary Bettman for expanding the NHL into southern states in areas outside hockey hotbeds.

To those people I say: Take a look at page 14 of this.

This is an effort by Canada’s TVB to rank Canada’s media markets alongside America’s media markets using Canada’s measure of number of persons over the age of 2 (Nielsen ranks American markets based on number of households).

By most standards, based on this list, there are a grand total of three Canadian markets worthy of a place in an American sports league. For the record, the NHL has seven Canadian teams. The three markets are, not surprisingly, the only three any other American sports league has even tried to put a team in: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

Toronto is in the next tier below the American Big Three of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Montreal is knocking on the door of the top ten at about Detroit’s size. Vancouver is a mid- to low-size market, about the size of Denver or Cleveland.

The rest? Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa are on the low side of borderline of where most American sports leagues would be willing to put a team in. Their peer markets are the likes of Buffalo, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City. And Winnipeg? Why, Winnipeg makes freaking Green Bay look like a bustling big city.

Don’t try to tell me that Canada is enough to make hockey a major sport. Canada has an eighth the population of the United States. Canada is peanuts compared to the large swathes of the United States where hockey may as well not exist. Los Angeles has barely even noticed the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup. Most of the teams in the South haven’t been getting fans or respect from hockey’s old guard. The team in Atlanta – a top ten market by Nielsen’s measure – couldn’t get out of Dodge fast enough, making tracks to Winnipeg. Winnipeg! You leave behind a market with 5.8 million people to move to a market with a sixth that total. And what’s worse? The main objection I’d have to it if I was one of those myopic hockey fans was that it wasn’t to Quebec, if only to leave open the possibility of the Phoenix Coyotes returning home. (By the way? Phoenix is knocking on the door of the top ten as well. Had they moved to Quebec, they would have left a market of nearly four and a half million people to one a quarter of the size at barely over a million.)

Here are the sums of the populations of the markets occupied by the so-called four “major” professional sports. To be fair, I gave all non-NHL leagues credit for only two-thirds of New York’s population, all non-MLB leagues credit for only half of Chicago’s population, and basketball and hockey credit for only half of the Bay Area’s population, to reflect the number of teams each league has in each market. To keep things simple, I didn’t count any outlying markets whose proximity to existing markets keeps them from having a team of their own, except that the Packers were counted as a Milwaukee team.

MLB: 144,679,333

NBA: 137,180,333

NHL: 133,652,000

NFL: 129,237,833

Now consider that the NFL’s numbers are depressed by not having a team in Los Angeles. Give the NFL the same one-half credit for the Bay Area as basketball and hockey, then give them one-half credit for LA (the effect of moving the Oakland Raiders), and the NFL’s total shoots up to 134,261,833. Now consider that the New York market is so massive that the one-third bonus the NHL gets for having a third team is topped by only a handful of entire markets. Give the NHL the same one-third penalty as the others, and the NHL drops down to 127,052,333 – less than what the NFL started with.

The NBA, NFL, and NHL all have propensities for having teams in odd markets, though in the NFL’s case it’s almost accidental. MLB’s smallest market (Cincinnati) is bigger than four NBA markets (San Antonio, Memphis, New Orleans, and that team that just won the Western Conference), three NFL markets (Buffalo, Jacksonville, and New Orleans, not counting Green Bay), and five NHL markets (Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Buffalo); of those, San Antonio is the only one within ten spots of Cincinnati. So the NHL has more teams in tinier markets; it has two teams (Ottawa and Winnipeg) in markets smaller than the smallest non-Green Bay market in the other three sports (New Orleans).

Now look at what the NHL is missing compared to the others. The only thing the NFL is really missing is LA and maybe Toronto, the latter of which is perfectly understandable, and they’re constantly trying to fix the former. The NBA doesn’t have a team in Seattle, Pittsburgh, or St. Louis. The NHL? They don’t have teams in Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, arguably Cleveland… not even Milwaukee, which would seem to be a great hockey market! The NHL is the only league in America that doesn’t have teams in three of the top 15 markets in the US and doesn’t see any of them as a problem – and it’s the only league in the history of history whose fans want that number to be higher! Do you realize why this might sound like lunacy to someone not in your little club?

Maybe the NHL’s fans like things this way. Maybe they’d rather despise the southern teams’ existence than root for them to have success and growing fanbases. Maybe they like having passionate fanbases in some places where it actually snows and empty (or nonexistent) arenas everywhere else. Maybe they like their preferred solution to having more of the former being just not caring how many people are there to make it up. Maybe they’d prefer to just keep things in their own exclusive club and keep out anyone who just doesn’t “get it”. Maybe they don’t care about the already far-from-their-supposed-peers Stanley Cup Final ratings dropping like a stone. If they want to do that, that’s fine with me. Just don’t try to tell me you’re a major sport worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as baseball and basketball, and certainly don’t try to tell me you deserve national coverage on par with those other two.

State of the Los Angeles Sports TV Wars

Since forming a new regional sports network to show Lakers games, Time Warner Cable has not won many prizes… but the next-biggest prize has still not been settled.

While TWC was able to add Galaxy games, Fox Sports has locked up Angels and Clippers rights, and just did something very important: lock up the primary team in a sport. As the Kings go on a historic run to the Stanley Cup, Fox Sports has locked up rights to their games through 2024.

It’s a big PR win for Fox, but it might ring a little hollow; Los Angeles isn’t much of a hockey market, and by all accounts hasn’t even been paying attention to the Kings’ run. The real prize, and determinant of the balance between Time Warner Cable and Fox, will be the Dodgers rights expected to be awarded in October. In the end, all the awarding of the Kings’ rights may amount to is a sign that the Ducks may end up moving to Time Warner Cable.

Idea to save the NHL.

I’ve heard it suggested that the reason the NHL hasn’t caught on in the South is because the kids can’t play it without any ice or snow. I personally think that’s bullshit, since I don’t think I’ve ever touched a football in my life. Maybe the NHL needs to adopt a convoluted and insane championship system! 🙂

But if that does explain the unpopularity of the NHL in the south, tell me what you think of this idea: Put ice rinks in YMCAs, youth centers, standalone buildings, and the like in southern, warm-weather cities. They can be used for anything – figure skating, hockey, even just skating for fun, like on dates and the like. Maybe start some small youth hockey leagues while you’re at it, even if you can field only two teams at first with no subs.

Over time, once the kids have a place to play, maybe it can help make the NHL a reasonably national sport and return it to the Big Four so it doesn’t have so many problems like getting jerked around the schedule so it’s not Conan’s leadin, bumped for Yanni, mired on Versus, and other such stupid, stupid, idiotic things.

(Actually, having the same teams as last year could serve as a good control for whether NBC’s first two games should be 1 and 2 instead of 3 and 4 long-term, a change I’ve liked for at least a year no matter what circumstances brought it about. And I personally think that in the age of the Internet, buzz and word-of-mouth could eventually turn the NHL into a fairly national sport anyway. Seems everyone on the Internet likes the NHL, except for some NBA partisans – each side seems to want to turn any mention of either league on Sports Media Watch into a “my league rulz your league sux” shoutfest.)

Da Blog’s Predictions for 2009

Because a lot of sites I visit are putting up predictions for the new year, so am I, and I’ll check back in at year’s end to see how I did:

  • The year in sports is a massive disappointment. The Super Bowl pits the Dolphins against the Vikings. North Carolina, after an undefeated regular season, loses in the Final Four and the national championship pits UCLA against UConn. The game is a laugher. Cleveland beats San Antonio in the NBA Finals; the Knicks just barely miss the playoffs and LeBron James signs a contract extention to stay in Cleveland after winning his first championship. Mike D’Antoni agrees to a buyout soon thereafter to coach LeBron in Cleveland, condemning the Knicks to a decade of mediocrity. The Stanley Cup Playoffs pit the Calgary Flames against the Montreal Canadiens, and America tunes out. So does Canada when it turns into a four-game sweep that’s not that close. Neither the Red Sox nor Yankees make the ALCS, and one of them misses the playoffs as Tampa Bay and Philadelphia square off again in the World Series.
  • Tiger Woods comes back too soon, finishing second in the Masters, and misses most of 2009, raising concerns he may retire. Jimmie Johnson wins yet another Sprint Cup in a laugher, and by the end of the season he’s winning races basically by showing up, with all the teams quitting. Rafael Nadal is the only player to win at least two majors of either gender, and Roger Federer never makes a major final. USC, Cincinnati, and Alabama are the only three undefeated teams by week 4; they stay that way through the end, and USC routs Alabama in the national championship. There are no BCS buster mid-majors. At least one minor league cancels either the 2009 or 2010 season, and at least one MLS team folds. The IRL cuts back drastically on the 2010 season, and doesn’t so much pass NASCAR as NASCAR passes it backwards. By 2012, though, the IRL is back to 2008 levels, and returns to ESPN in 2018. UFC effectively becomes NASCAR’s replacement as one of the four major sports, and shows it wasn’t moving to pay-per-view that killed boxing.
  • The Olympics moves to ESPN and ABC after landing in Chicago. NBC immediately pulls out of the NHL following the 2009-2010 season. ESPN becomes the exclusive cable home of the NHL (beyond NHL Network) after 2011.
  • The Saints challenge for the NFC South, and the Lions are at least respectable. Brett Favre retires and the Jets become the new Lions. Matt Cassel bolts from New England to join the Jaguars, who instantly become a Super Bowl contender. Tom Brady comes back a clearly different player, and the Pats begin a slow slide into mediocrity. The Cowboys self-destruct and don’t even challenge for the playoffs. The Titans trade Vince Young to Houston in the offseason.
  • Barack Obama finds himself frazzled by the vexing economic crisis and various foreign crises. Troops are out of Iraq by June, but by August Iraq is effectively ruled by several cabals of warlords. Obama uses the money freed up by exiting Iraq to institute his own version of the New Deal, but it doesn’t work very well. Meanwhile little actual “change” happens, even from the politics of the last eight years, and when Obama calls in the military to break up a food riot in November, many in his own party compare him to Bush, and the “netroots” begin forming their own nascent political movement for 2012.
  • By 2012, that movement has gained enough steam to attract attention (and support) from both major parties. However, the economic crisis has only gotten worse and the US has effectively become a vassal state of China… and the Republicans, as a result, prove far more resilient than expected after adopting a bizarre fascist-anarchist policy, a strange kitbashing of the politics of Ron Paul and George W. Bush. Before 2020, World War III has erupted, and America is Nazi Germany after the GOP win the 2012 elections, the last to be held under the Constitution of 1776. The 2016 Olympics become America’s 1936 Munich Games, and come complete with a past-his-prime Michael Phelps being dragged back to the pool. The world comes out of the war with the economy back on track, but set back to the Middle Ages if not before. China, India, and Japan become the new “modern” world powers with Depression-era technology, set back from reaching 1950s-era technology by the ravages to the environment. The Amazon becomes a desert; Canada and Russia become the world’s new breadbasket.
  • The Internet undergoes its latest metamorphosis. By the end of the year, it is as good at watching video as the average television. In the short term, it only benefits from the deepening economic crisis. When the Obama administration passes a universal broadband bill, it sparks an Internet revolution, and blogs become the new MySpace, since you can at least theoretically make money off them. Internet advertising finally becomes viable, if only because nothing else is.
  • Webcomics undergo an explosion during this time. A Penny Arcade TV series is commissioned for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block by year’s end. By 2010, a Girl Genius movie is in development, and rumors of an Order of the Stick movie persist as well. Sandsday becomes the biggest new thing in webcomics, and by year’s end I’m fighting off TV series offers of my own.
  • Da Blog attracts two huge followings in particular: people looking for webcomics criticism, who singlehandedly make it ten times more popular than Websnark ever was, rendering my getting a real job unnecessary, and people looking for straight-dope political analysis. Da Blog plays a significant role in attracting new audiences to politics, healing the rifts of our political landscape, and shaping the aforementioned nascent political movement.

And that just left me incredibly drained and depressed. I think it’s better if I don’t try to predict what happens, and just try and enjoy the ride. You should try it some time.

Predictions for SportsCenter’s "Top 10 Games" of 2008

In case you haven’t heard, this was a particularly exciting year in sports. When ESPN’s “SportsCenter” does its annual “Top 10 Games” countdown, they could easily extend it to a Top 20. With so many great games, I’ve taken it upon myself to take my own stab at mimicking the ESPN list and what it might look like.

Between some college football playoff-related features and Da Blog’s regular features, I think it’s reasonable to schedule the College Football Rankings’ release, as well as the bowl schedule, for Thursday.

#10: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, men’s basketball gold medal match, USA v. Spain. The “Redeem Team” lives up to their name in a game Bill Simmons called “one of the 10 most dramatic basketball games of my lifetime. And nobody gave a crap or even knew. The game started at 2:30 in the morning ET and vanished into thin air. Only West Coasters and super-diehards stayed up to see it.”

#9: NHL Hockey, Winter Classic, Pittsburgh Penguins @ Buffalo Sabres. Could the NHL have asked for anything less than a shootout from the first (true) Winter Classic?

#8: College football, SEC Championship Game, Florida v. Alabama. If the regular season is a playoff, this was its semifinal – and it certainly played like one.

#7: MLB Baseball, ALCS Game 5, Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox. For the moment, just forget about the fact the Sox couldn’t come all the way back to win the series.

#6: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, swimming, 4x100m freestyle relay OR 100m butterfly OR 4x100m medley relay. The first two were dramatic finishes on Michael Phelps’ road to Mark Spitz’s record. The last was the one that broke it and had an exciting finish of its own. And I only have it at #6.

#5: College football, Texas @ Texas Tech. The Red Raiders came out to an early lead, only to see Texas come storming back to take a lead of its own. In the end, Texas Tech had the play of the year, and as it turned out, the one that kept Texas out of the National Championship Game.

#4: Wimbledon, men’s final, Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal. This and the next two I could have put in any order. A five-set, record-length classic that ended with Nadal finally getting the best of Federer away from clay.

#3: Men’s college basketball, NCAA Tournament Final, Kansas v. Memphis. Finally, a National Championship game that lives up to being the culmination of March Madness instead of being a complete anticlimax!

#2: US Open Golf, playoff, Tiger Woods v. Rocco Mediate. 19 holes of pure tension, as basically an unknown gives Tiger every inch of challenge he has, and brings out Tiger’s best to put him on top. And Tiger was injured to the extent it’s still the last event he’s played!

#1: NFL Football, Super Bowl XLII, New England Patriots v. New York Giants. Perhaps the greatest iteration ever of the biggest sporting event of every year? How can it not be #1?

Honorable Mentions: IRL racing, Indy Japan 300 (Danica wins!); Euro 2008 quarterfinal, Croatia v. Turkey (or was it the semis, where Germany beat Turkey? Basically a sop to my soccer-crazed dad anyway); MLB Home Run Derby; ArenaBowl XXII, Soul v. SaberCats (about the only thing that could make it better is if it were the last one); some NBA game I’m forgetting; some obscure game I never heard of or just didn’t watch (possibly from MMA, boxing, the LLWS, Fresno State’s run, the WNBA, MLS, or the like)

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 5/31-6/1

All times PDT.

9-2 PM: College Softball, College World Series, second round action (ESPN). Quick format explanation: Teams that lose in round 1 play a second first round game, then play the second round loser from the other half of the bracket. Then they move on to the semifinal tomorrow, but if the team that lost a game wins the first game, they play a second game. It’s really simple! The best-of-three final gets played over the next three days.

5-7:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Detroit @ Pittsburgh (CBC/NBC). For a while there were reports that NBC was decreasing its Stanley Cup Finals commitment so low that some potentially deciding games would be cut. Buf if you cut a deciding game, make it Game 4. If it’s 3-0, it’s a sweep if it ends and that’s boring. If it’s 2-1, well, it’s not a deciding game, is it?

In fact, if this year’s Finals has shown anything, it’s that if you’re going to cut any game, in any sport’s best-of-seven series, deciding or non-deciding, from broadcast, make it Game 3. After the first two games, everyone was thinking the series would have little suspense and would be done quickly. I have to imagine that depressed viewership for Game 3, despite the currently-reported relatively strong ratings. Now viewership will pick back up again for Game 4. I think a structure putting the first two games on broadcast, priming the pump for everyone to watch, and the last two or three games on broadcast, makes sense.

9-11 PM (both coasts): EliteXC Mixed Martial Arts, Saturday Night Fights (CBS, both coasts). The only place this doesn’t interfere with hockey is on the West Coast; otherwise it’s merely an honorable mention. This thing better knock my socks off in the ratings or it will not get any sort of a protected spot in future Watchers.

2-10 PM: French Open, 3rd round action (Tennis Channel). I write this a day in advance. I have no clue what to expect.

10:30-3 PM: NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing, Best Buy 400 (FOX). I will be watching the IndyCar race starting at 1, but I’m sure you’ll go gaga over this without me. I’m a bit distressed at the most logical reasons why ESPN still doesn’t cover NASCAR as much as its popularity suggests it should, that is to say, on shows like Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption.

5:30-8 PM: NBA Basketball, Detroit @ Boston, if necessary (ABC). Hey, Detroit residents don’t need to decide between basketball and hockey anymore!

If Boston wins Game 6:
5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, LA Dodgers @ NY Mets (ESPN). Because I have to make some mention of OMG JOE TORRE’S COMING BACK TO NEW YORK EVEN THOUGH HE ISN’T PLAYING HIS FORMER TEAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111!!!1111!!1111!!!!eleven!

Can I mention that in my hunting around the world of sports, looking for something, ANYTHING to fill any conceivable hole in the schedule, the Sports Watcher is still a labor-intensive excersize that still drains a lot from me, even with the ability to finish it a day or so in advance? I may abandon it again in August or so when the Little League World Series dies down.

I have an inkling of an idea to do a rundown of EVERY sporting event on TV, not just one for each timeslot. But of course that would be MORE work. A part of me wants to refer people who want that sort of thing to HD Sports Guide, but a) it doesn’t include end-of-time-slot info and b) it only includes HD stuff. And if I do that, I might as well do a schedule of EVERY SINGLE SPORTING EVENT BEING PLAYED ANYWHERE EVER. That would be beyond my capacities and would probably mean a whole other web site. You might find Sports TV Insider or DirecTV’s My Game Schedule useful, though.

I may do a Watcher-like rundown of just stuff on each sport’s own network. If you have any suggestions for how to reform the Watcher, leave a comment and I may have a poll up next week, running until I finally do end the Watcher again in August.

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 5/24-25

Read this post to get introduced to Sports Watcher. Basically, I run down what a sports fanatic would watch if he wanted to watch as many sports as possible over the weekend. That means only one sport in a given timeslot, as many sports as possible, and as important a contest as possible. All times PDT.

9-11 AM: College lacrosse, Syracuse v. Virginia (ESPN2). In one of my previous stint of Sports Watcher posts, I noted that the Frozen Four seemed to be the biggest college sport that wasn’t football or basketball. If ESPN is any guide, baseball, softball and lacrosse may give it a run for its money. Of course, that may just be ESPN looking for any spring championships to fill time. The final, incidentially, isn’t until Monday. The second semifinal, Johns Hopkins v. Duke, is out because otherwise I get no baseball.

12:30-4 PM: MLB Baseball, regional action (FOX). Mets/Rockies, D-Backs/Braves, Angels/White Sox. The Rockies stink after making the World Series last year, and the Mets having a .512 record (as of Wednesday) would be more impressive if they weren’t second-to-last in their own division. The other two games are more interesting, especially Angels-White Sox which pits two division leaders (again as of Wednesday) against each other, but I doubt as many people will get D-Backs/Braves as should.

5-7:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Pittsburgh @ Detroit (CBC/VS.). The NHL’s dream Stanley Cup finals for American dominance starts.

7-10 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 84 (PPV). Yes, there’s an overlap. It’ll start with dull undercard matches anyway, it’s not much of an overlap. Besides, I bet you can’t afford it anyway.

10-1:30 PM: IndyCar Racing, Indianapolis 500 (ABC). Or as ESPN is calling it, “The 92nd Indianapolis 500 telecast presented by GoDaddy.com”. First of all, it’s not the 92nd TELECAST, TV not being arouns 92 years ago and all, and secondly, this is what they’re calling it on their ticker even when referring strictly to the race itself! But who cares? It’s all about unification, baby! And Helio winning Dancing with the Stars! And Danica winning her first race! Wait, the latter already happened on a race on ESPN Classic that wasn’t Indy?

Honorable Mention: 12-3 PM: Champions Tour Golf, Senior PGA Championship, final round (NBC). Sheesh. I once created an imaginary system where all the championships could be scheduled on one imaginary network, because usually there’s no more than one at a time (this later evolved into Sports Watcher). Key word, usually, because in 2006 the MLS Cup interfered with the Chase for the then-Nextel Cup. Now I’m considering having two tracks of Sports Watcher. Get more high-profile sports onto the main Watcher, you know?

2:30-5 PM: College softball, super-regional action (ESPNU). If you’re not familiar with college baseball or softball, super-regionals appear to be pairs of regionals. 8 teams advance from the super-regionals to the College World Series and get placed into a bracket only once they get there. Regular ESPN actually airs softball during the Indy 500!

Honorable Mention: 4-6 PM: College lacrosse, women’s championship (CBS College Sports). It’s not because of the softball that I bumped this, violating my all-championships policy in the process. It’s so early in the softball tournament that I wouldn’t cry to lose it. It’s because it just barely interferes with…

5:30-8 PM: NBA Basketball, LA Lakers @ San Antonio (TNT). A Celtics-Lakers final would be heaven for NBA brass and ratings, as much of a godsend as Pens-Red Wings is for the NHL; a Spurs-Pistons final would be hell. Keep a very, VERY close eye on the officials in both series.