New Thing #313: The Schedule Makers

30_For_30I was sitting at my daughter's dance class Saturday morning, trying to entertain my 2-and-a-half-year old, hoping to come across a New Thing. She started to tie and untie my shoes, leaving me with the perfect 15-minute window to check Twitter on my phone.

Lo and behold, Buster Olney tweeted out a link to a 30-For-30 Short called The Schedule Makers.

I had today's New Thing.

I haven't watched very many of the ESPN '30 For 30' series…but obviously, they've been critically acclaimed, and the ones I've seen have been good. (The one that stands out the most is the one about Reggie Miller and the Knicks, but I think I've seen a couple of others.)

This one is about Henry and Holly Stephenson, the couple from Martha's Vineyard who created the Major League Baseball schedule from 1982-2004.

A couple of things about this story enticed me:

  • It was a short - it runs 12 minutes, 25 seconds, so I was able to watch it sitting there on the floor of Dancer's Workshop, while my daughter untied my shoes. (I said before 'tie and untie', but that's wrong - she didn't tie my shoes at all.) (Also parenthetically, this was also a New Thing - rarely do I open up videos if I'm not on wireless, but this thing came across the network pretty well - no stops and starts.)
  • Because of the local aspect of the Stephensons, I had heard about them before. It always boggled my mind that the entire Major League Baseball schedule was created from a home on Martha's Vineyard, at least as far as the annual brief mentions in the baseball column in the Boston Globe went. I think, if I remember correctly, after they stopped making the schedules, there was some kind of profile in the Globe, but that was at least 8 years ago. I'm not even sure if I read it or I just knew it happened. Or maybe I'm completely wrong.
  • It's not exactly in my wheelhouse as far as how my brain works, but I always was intrigued by the idea that the schedule had to be created. Given a week or something like that where I could singularly focus on it, I would love the challenge of scheduling 162 games for 30 teams.

The short doesn't get into the process a ton, but I liked hearing about the quirks that need to be considered when making the schedule: Baltimore likes to open at home, Seattle likes to be on the road for Seafarers' Week, other teams like to be home for certain events, Boston has to be home for Patriots' Day, and the Stephensons kind of laughed at all of the events scheduled in New York that needed to be taken into consideration.

I liked this picture they showed of the schedule sketch:


The teams are listed across the top, and the dates are down the side, and the numbers correspond to the opponent. That seems like something I could do.

One thing I know I would do differently - Holly Stephenson uses those pencils that are kind of mechanical but aren't really - they're yellow, they have the adjustable lead that comes out of the tip - but I've never loved those pencils. I've tried them - whenever I used them they had terrible erasers, and they broke easily. She also uses them when she does her New York Times crosswords, which they showed - she's a big puzzler. I always use a pen. I couldn't imagine using one of those pencils on the magazine paper.

I don't know that I would care enough to watch a documentary - no matter how short - on how schedules were made for other sports.

But there's something about the Major League Baseball schedule and Henry and Holly's long involvement in its creation that really piques my interest.

Clearly, based on this short, I'm not alone.

And, if anyone cares, I'd give it more than 12:25 if a longer documentary was ever made.