In Slight Defense of the NBA Finals Halftime Shows

The NBA Finals halftime shows have been getting panned. But who really cares?
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Halftime shows are like commercials. A necessary evil and a perfect opportunity to load up on more snack mix or perform a fluids check. Few people in the history of sitting on their couches have ever been deeply intrigued by a Coming Up At the Half tease. And the hardworking broadcasting crews that try to capture eyeballs and attention are fighting an uphill battle.

That's the bad news. The good is that all of this combines to create a low-stakes environment because, let's face it, average viewers don't really care if the halftime show is good or average or a trainwreck. As long as the second half begins on time then everyone wins and no one loses.

So it's kind of perplexing to see the aggregating of grievances concerning ESPN/ABC's mid-game fare during the NBA Finals. Awful Announcing got out the stopwatch and crunched some numbers following Game 1's halftime show.

All told, the studio crew got roughly a minute and 20 seconds of air time. And remember, that time was split between five people. Much of that time was spent on intros from and outros to commercial breaks.

Is this ideal? Certainly not. But is it a new phenomenon? Also no.

ESPN/ABC has been dinged for stuffing shot-clock-length opinions and observations between a crushing amount of bells and whistles for years. Those critiquing the operation are right when they say there's no flow and it can all be a bit disorienting. But they are also a bit silly for tuning into the Finals games and expecting anything different than what has been standard operating procedure for some time now.

It feels weird to defend something that could certainly be better yet at the same time complaining that viewers aren't getting enough opinions or analysis during what is essentially a content oasis feels a bit weird. Those are available on the network before the game and after the game, plus on-demand and on social media for anyone who may have missed the thousands of words and hundreds of segments devoted to Celtics-Mavs under the ESPN umbrella.

There simply cannot be a real world faction significant enough to warrant concern-trolling that Bob Myers and Josh Hart weren't given enough time to explore the space. Or that the real world is pining for another minute of Stephen A. Smith to fire off whatever he's going to fire off.

For as often this crew is compared to TNT's iconic foursome on Inside the NBA, which does move at a more beneficial pace, there's little apples-to-oranges consideration. First, broadcasting a champioship is going to afford the opportunity — and necessity really — to be more sponsor- and commercial-heavy. Then there's the problem of people conflating TNT's long postgame coverage with its halftime hits. Sure Barkley or O'Neal might say something hilarious and go viral during the mid-game break but more often than not the focus will be on Team X not turning the ball over or how Team Y looks sleepy out there.

Sunday night's Game 2 brought more of the same because, honestly, who would think it would change in the span of a few days. Unofficial numbers suggest the commercialization outpaced the analysis at around a 6-1 clip. But we're not going to go back and chart it ourselves because almost anything is a better use of time.

Something to keep in mind for Game 3 instead of hoping for a miracle that simply isn't going to come.


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Kyle K

KYLE KOSTER