Basketball’s Trash Leads To Football’s Treasure

Christmas Day has evolved into a basketball fanatic’s second birthday with the NBA scheduling five games annually since the 2008 season. Due to lackluster competition this year, the NBA could see a decline in TV ratings while the NFL experiences success.

“Sounds good to me!,” NFL commissioner and Jamestown native Roger Goodell is yelling enthusiastically at his New York office.

Football will have two marquee matchups Christmas Day starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers home slugfest against the Baltimore Ravens. Kansas City and Denver will bout Christmas night. (More on those contests later.)

In order to study a potential decline, I first researched the average viewership per Christmas Day game (2008-15). The following represents the average per game each season, per (used Nielsen ratings):

2008 4.43 million, 2009 4.17 million, 2010 six million, 2011 6.31 million, 2012 5.5 million, 2013 4.46 million, 2014 5.22 million and 2015 5.55 million.

On average, 5.2 million people have viewed each Christmas Day game since the 2008 season. I’ll spare you the college-level statistics formulas because, quite frankly, they were actually difficult to remember yet alone use. I was, nonetheless, able to find them through old notes.

I think I’ll stick to journalism.

Although there was a recent rebound, anything could change Sunday.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find an accurate sample of Christmas NFL Day games. The league refused to play any regular season games on Christmas Day, even on a Sunday, until 1989. (For the record, two playoff games were played on Christmas Day 1971.) Ever since then, Christmas Day has fallen on a Sunday four times (1994, 2005, 2011 and, now, 2016).

Due to both NFL restrictions and calendar layout, the league has played just 14 regular season games all-time on Christmas Day.

The NBA has played 40 games on Christmas Day since 2008. 

As I mentioned before in previous settings, I love utilizing statistics to support my work. A person can also look at the raw level of competition within each game. The NBA has a terrible lineup Sunday compared to the NFL and that’s a given considering the implications of all seven professional sporting events.

Adam Silver’s NBA schedule on Christmas will begin with a noontime contest between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, one which won’t interfere with the NFL’s doubleheader. Although both teams are similar in record (both above .500) and roster/play style, the two are continuing to rebuild.

In short, you’ll have an excuse to rest before your crazy uncle shows up.

Golden State and Cleveland, without a doubt, will be the most watched basketball game all afternoon. Steph Curry and the Warriors will visit Lebron James and the Cavs in a rematch of the last two NBA Finals.

Many people are more than likely willing to switch back-and-forth between that game and the Ravens-Steelers game, which starts at 4:30. Some may actually sacrifice the first quarter of the NFL’s first contest.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh will be a de facto AFC North Championship. Winner will receive the championship title. If Pittsburgh loses, they’ll remain in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. The Steelers will, however, have a difficult time clinching a wild card berth with a sixth loss.

If the Ravens lose, their postseason hopes are automatically dead.

I’d say Baltimore and Pittsburgh is huge.

Chicago and San Antonio’s game will occur during the AFC North showdown. The Bulls, minus Jimmy Butler, lack the starpower. They are also a game below .500. San Antonio, meanwhile, relies on a successful old-school style of fundamentals.

Neither offense averages over 104 points per game.

Gregg Popovich’s Spurs are also historically dominant at home. A sleepy game, either way.

Kansas City and Denver’s game also has playoff implications within the AFC. If the Chiefs win, they’d clinch a playoff berth while Denver says its farewell.

If Denver wins, they’ll remain alive heading into Week 17. Kansas City would, then, need to beat the Chargers next week to clinch a playoff spot.

Minnesota at OKC and the Battle of LA (Clippers-Lakers) will be the two games interfering with Sunday Night Football. Minnesota, although extremely talented, is a year or two away from becoming a legitimate playoff contender. OKC, meanwhile, relies on a one-man wrecking crew of Russell Westbrook.


I wouldn’t even talk about the LA game if it wasn’t for Ryan growing up in the Los Angeles area. The game would be great if we traveled back to 2012 or so.

The Clippers are, once again, a contender in the West. Luke Walton’s Lakers, however, are years away from reaching the promised land of superiority. Yes, the Lakers have a bright future. Their talent, however, needs maturation before the team becomes a playoff threat again.

Clearly, the last two games are time-slot fillers and money-makers.

The NBA, in my opinion, failed to concoct a slate of Christmas Day games capable of competing with the NFL’s double-header. I’ll do a follow up later in the week to determine if I’m correct. If not….




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