The Science Behind, “The EAST COAST BIAS”

It must sound like a bunch of crying and complaining to people on the East Coast when the rest of the nation (minus LA) complains about the East Coast bias. There can be a very good explanation for that, maybe because it’s real.

There is a science behind the East Coast Bias, and it goes as this: Teams or franchises that are located on the Eastern seaboard, more specifically, the Eastern time zone, have a higher chance of being viewed on national television broadcasts and thus, a larger audience is viewed on a more frequent level throughout the duration of that sports’ respected season gaining undeserved notoriety.

So why does that all matter anyways? Well when the largest portion of the American population has teams more readily available on peak viewing times like 6/7pm and not at 9/10pm they tend to talk about, rave about, and only focus on what they saw with their own two eyes weather it be the respected teams performance or the performance of a specific player or two. This is an argument, a theory, and an opinion that has been around for decades. The thing about East Coast bias is that maybe we should take a step back, and call it a hypothesis, rather than a proven theory first, let us adhere to the scientific method. If teams reputations are related to the amount of viewers they receive during broadcasts, then teams with higher average viewing audiences will have better known influence and reputation. That’s a bona fide hypothesis, now let’s test it.

There are a lot of East Coast bias articles out there already, some agreeing with it and others claiming it’s not real. The problem that most people have used to forge their arguments, is that they pull together a smorgasbord of random outliers from all the different sports leagues including college. For it to be a controlled experiment you need just that, controls. This is why those arguments are always an endless cycle of arguing back and forth. Now even though this should and very much could be conducted as a scientific experiment with the above hypothesis stated; I’m not here to write a 12 page scientific report on this matter, kids these days don’t have the attention span for that shit. This is a way to bring better clarity to the matter and not bogus opinions.

Now let’s start with the outliers. For me, I could say that the NFL in current standing doesn’t seem to hold much East Coast bias, key word is “much” not none. The Rams-Chiefs Monday Night classic for example, void of any East Coast team in 2018, nabbed the highest ratings for Monday Football ever. The only advantage that holds any credence actually, is the fact that West Coast (Mountain time included) teams that visit the East Coast have a significant disadvantage over the reverse of the East Coast team visiting the West Coast location. The data has been proven teams on the “morning clock” when they play have a significant lower win percentage credit the chart that collected the results from 2001 to 2015 and you can see the trend clearly.

Credit: Brian Stonelake

In fact, Brain Stonelake has an amazing article with all sorts of research done on how the brain function on the “morning clock” is effected by the time difference going East and not the “night clock” going West, hence higher turnover rates and penalties throughout the 300+ games that were used as example for the West Coast teams playing on the East.

Moving past the NFL into baseball, I think the MLB has had East Coast bias deep within its roots. Yankees and Red Sox that’s it, that’s the argument. This pains me to say as a struggling Colorado Rockies fan, but the ginormous following that the LA Dodgers fans have, one would think they must be a commonly talked about team. Not so fast, Mark Timmons wrote about his own scientific experiment he did back in 2017 about how many of the 52 articles on ESPN’s MLB section covered the Dodgers. It was 2. Yes 2. While 23 where either Red Sox or Yankees related. That is but a glimpse into the East Coast bias that exists in one of the most traditional professional sports.

Inversely, you can’t really control how the nation is set up, most of the population lives on the East Coast and nothing is going to change that. An estimated 80% of the population live East of The Rocky Mountains and you can see how it would be bad business for networks to not understand that. So how should we perceive this East Coast bias then? Simply claiming it doesn’t exist is just wrong, but realizing that it’s just how TV stations can keep their viewership up and coming to terms is realistic and justified.

The emergence of on-demand technologies are also something to consider when thinking about live sporting events. The ability to record on DVR’s or watch something on-demand may actually reduce how we perceive the East Coast bias as more and more individuals can go back and watch any game from any time at their convenience.

So the East Coast bias is real, and it’s ok. Keep that in mind when you structure your next argument about who is a better player or who is a better team. Are they the better player/team because you’ve heard of them more? Or are they better because they, simply are.

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