“If I were a fan and I came to the game against Portland that first night, I’d probably want to see somebody else the next night,” Kerr said. “I think we should always be thinking about our fans when it comes to how we schedule the games.”
In the not so distant past, fallible humans came up with the schedule for our sports leagues. It was a painstaking, manual process. In the NFL, the late Val Pinchbeck would slowly piece together the entire football slate on a giant pegboard. Other leagues had too many games to fit on a pegboard, but they employed similarly artisanal methods of mapping the future. Matt Winick was the NBA’s Val Pinchbeck, the man who slowly, personally constructed the 1,230 game schedule within a tornado of yellow legal pads. He did it for three decades, and in his latter years on the job, used the trappings of modernity as a means to shift blame. As Winick told Howard Beck in a 2015 Bleacher Report story: “I tell the teams, ‘Hey, that’s the way the computer did it. But it was never the computer. I was the computer.”
Both Winick and Pinchbeck now are beloved in sports league circles, even if teams were cursing their choices back then. These two are associated with a wilder, woolier, pre-corporate time when the future was more an act of invention than the manifestation of automated fatalism. Such a time cannot be sustained, though. These days, if Winick were still on the job, that computer excuse wouldn’t be a lie.