Is Anybody Watching?

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With all the turmoil in sports this past year – will they play, won’t they play, who will play, who can’t play, where will they play, etc. – I wondered whether fans were still watching. This question is especially interesting since the seasons were overlapped and none had the stage to themselves. The news is not good.

I will start with the NBA finals. From 1987 to the present, the three lowest rated playoff games and the least watched for that 33-year period were the same. They all occurred in 2020. This year’s games 1, 2, and 3 had the lowest ratings in NBA history. To give you an idea of the decline, the most watched game was Game 6 of the NBA finals in 1998.  That game drew an audience of 35.9 million viewers. Game 3 of the NBA finals this
year drew 5.94 million viewers. That is an astounding 84% drop in viewership.

The average number of viewers for the six games of this year’s Final was 7.5 million – down 51% from last year and 67% from the 2018 championship series. The reasons given were the fact that the games were being played out of season and some pundits thought the players’ activism in the current climate turned some viewers away. More people were home due to Covid-19, but fewer were watching.

The NHL championship finals showed a decline of almost 38% from the previous year. On average 2.4 million viewers watched each game of the six-game Stanley Cup finals compared to an average of 6.1 million who watched the previous year. Game 7 in 2019 drew the second highest rating in NHL history. This year’s NHL final series was the least watched since 2007.

Major League Baseball’s World Series is not faring any better. The first three games in the Series are the three lowest rated games in history by a rather large margin. On average those three games have had an audience of 7.9 million viewers. Just to give you an unfair, but startling, comparison, the 1978 World Series which featured the Yankees and the Dodgers drew 44.3 million viewers on average. Closer to home, Game 6 of the 1980 Phillies-Royals series drew a startling 54.9 million viewers.

It certainly doesn’t help that college football and the NFL are also fighting for the eyes of American sports fans. Early reports on them, however, also show a decline. NFL viewership is down 10% through the first four weeks. College football has not generated much interest yet.

Even the US Open final golf round was down 56%.  Why has there been such a drastic reduction? I mentioned overlapping seasons earlier. It should also be noted that a number of fans are watching on streaming services and those numbers, as of now, are not counted. People love to talk sports, but socializing, one would suspect, is at an all-time low. And, maybe, between politics taking center stage and many being stuck at home, sports just aren’t all that important right now.

So, I ask – Are you one of those who is watching or has sports become less important?


1. Through seven NFL weeks, the NFC East is officially the worst ever in history to this point. No division has gone through the first seven weeks without one team in the division having three wins. The Eagles, Cowboys,
Giants, and the Washington Football Team have two or less wins. The Eagles are in first place with a 2-4-1 record.

2. Didn’t you think when Tom Brady went to Tampa, that the Patriots would be just fine when they acquired Cam Newton? Last week, the Patriots lost to Denver and this week the 49ers beat the Patriots 33-6. Newton did not even throw for 100 yards and was eventually benched. Tom Brady’s Bucs are 5-2 while New England is 2-4. Same coach; different QB – Hmm….

3. It is not often in football when a team does NOT WANT to score. But twice this weekend, a defensive unit allowed the opponent to score just to get the ball back with a chance to win the game. Both times it worked due to a poor decision by the offensive player. Penn State scored a touchdown late in the game when they could have run out the clock and won. Instead, they lost in overtime. In the NFL, the Falcons did the same thing, allowing the Lions to have enough time to beat them on the last play of the game. The moral: it’s not always in your best interest to score.

4. I hope you are at least looking in on the World Series (not many are) because the games are very entertaining, none more so than Saturday night’s last at-bat victory by the Rays when Brett Phillips got a base hit in the bottom of the ninth with two outs to win the game. No one was more shocked than Phillips. He needed an IV after the game because his heart was racing and he was dehydrated. Take a peek at the games and decide if you want to stay until the end.

5. The regular season for high school football comes to an end this weekend and we have two exceptional games for you. Undefeated Emmaus takes on undefeated Parkland on Friday night at 7:00pm. We will also do the game
across the state of Pennsylvania for PCN. Saturday afternoon at 1:00pm, Freedom takes on Liberty in their intercity rivalry. Records do not seem to matter when these two teams clash. The city championship is at stake.
District playoff action begins the following week.

Gary’s Guesses:
NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-5; OVERALL- 73-30-1 – 71%)

Kansas City
Green Bay
LA Rams
LA Chargers
New Orleans
Tampa Bay



Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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