The Silly Waiting Game

by John Furgele

April and May are excellent sports months.  April brings us the start of the baseball season, and as ridiculous as the hype is, the NFL Draft, as well as the NHL and NBA playoffs.  Throw in the start of the Major League Soccer and the end of the European soccer leagues, and you have more than a full plate to feast your eyes on. 

May might be better than April.  By May, you get to see which baseball teams might be for real and which ones are frauds.  The NBA and NHL playoffs are getting deeper into the action and of course, you have the greatest two miutes in sports with the Kentucky Derby, followed two weeks later by the Preakness Stakes.  Memorial Day weekend also brings the start of summer and the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. 

As the NBA and NHL playoffs progress through their first rounds, the thing that rattles through my mind is why do these leagues wait so long to get to the playoffs.  The NHL playoffs are riveting.  One goal can make or break a game, and each power play, each up-the-ice-rush is so exciting and so crucial.  The NBA is also full of high drama.  The NBA playoffs are very much like the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  Every posession is important and cannot be wasted.  In the NBA playoffs, you need to play good half court defense and you have to be able to get good shots on offense.  The gret thing about the NBA playoffs is that the games are possession by possession affairs. 

The NHL and NBA is all about the playoffs, and what I can’t understand is why these leagues wait so long to get us to the playoffs?  Why do they drag out an 82 games season over seven long months, when the playoffs is what American sports fans want to see?  Why do they play 82 games to eliminate jus half the teams, or why do they play 82 games, then take half the teams into the playoffs? In the NHL, they take 16 of 30 teams to the playoffs. 

Even on TV, you can feel a difference in playoff action.  You can feel the intrsnity through a television set, and you know that a magical moment is forthcoming at some time.  Turn on the TV in mid-January, and you can feel a lack of it, a run-of-the-mill just another game feel.  Why do the NBA and NHL want to market that? 

It’s been said before.  If the NHL and NBA playoffs are so good, so riveting, so exciting, why keep the fans from seeing it for so long?  Why not start them sooner?  Why not get to your exciting season as soon as you can?  Why not shorten the regular season, so the players that play in the playoffs are fresher and stronger come playoff time. 

A 60 game regular season would do the trick.  30 home games, 30 road games.  This would cut one month off the already too long regular season and would get the fans to the important stuff much sooner.  Why not start the playoffs in early March so by April and May, you’d be into the frenzy.  Crown your champions by Memorial Day or the first weekend in June and then let those who suffered through another long winter enjoy their summer? 

We know that teams and arenas would not want to give up “dates,” and owners would not want to pay players the same money for a 60 game season than they do an 82 game season.  Since the 60 game season is 27 percent shorter than the 82 game season, owners would be withing their rights to cut player salaries by that 27 percent, something that is happening all across America, where workers are often given a choice:  take the pay cut or find another job.  Many take the pay cut. 

Owners could do the right thing by letting players keep the same salary for one year, taking a 10 percent cut the next, and in year three, they would take another 10 percent cut.  In the end, the owners would give the players a break and cut the salaries by a total of 20 percent, rather than 27 percent, a thank you for accepting the new policies. 

We already know by 60 games the good teams from the bad teams, so why not get rid of the bad teams and let the good teams start the playoffs?

MLB should also cut their season, from 162 to 144 and start their playoffs in September rather than October, a 22 percent cut.  And, football, the sport that has the nearly perfect regular season slate of 16 games, should keep it at that.  Going to 18 games seems like a good move for a football demanding nation, but that would be a mistake.  The old adage “less is more,” really means something, especially in sports. 

Don’t delay, do it today.

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