Are Sports Seasons Too Long?

By James F.

With expanded leagues and expanded playoffs, it seems that seasons are getting longer and longer all the time. We are not even to the end of the college basketball regular season and now Major League Baseball is beginning. That’s not a big deal because right now the baseball games don’t count. By the time they start counting, college hoops will be winding down. But the NBA and NHL will still have two and a half months left to go to crown a champion, which eats up nearly half of baseball season. Then a month later, football will be cranking up again. Baseball will still be going on through half of the football season. And just when baseball ends, basketball begins again.

Now we are not opposed to seasons overlapping a bit. But it seems to be getting worse lately. Remember when the Super Bowl was in mid January? Now it is in February. Remember when the World Series ended in mid-October? Now it’s bleeding over into November. The NBA Finals used to end right around Memorial Day. Pretty soon we’ll be watching basketball on July 4th.

Would scaling back the baseball playoffs be so bad? Pennant races in baseball were the greatest the fewer the teams that would go to the post-season. We are not saying to go back to one team from each league going straight to the World Series, but now we have 10 teams qualifying for the playoffs. Do we need that many?

Do we need 16 NBA teams and 16 NHL teams in the playoffs? Right now, the Milwaukee Bucks are hanging out near the .500 mark and if the season ended today, they would make the playoffs. Do teams at or below.500 deserve to make the playoffs? The Los Angeles Lakers have been under .500 all season, but they are a couple of good weeks away from getting in. Is that a good thing?

Sometimes less is more. College football bowl games were more of a reward when teams had to actually have a winning record to get into one. Now there are so many of them, a 6-6 record will do it. Pretty soon, we will have the NCAA Tournament expand to 128 teams. To get all the first round games on TV, they will have it last for four days. You laugh now, but that day is coming.

The culprit in all of this is cable TV. People purchases the Sports Packages so they can watch sports whenever they want. But these channels need programming. And as we all know, the sports make their money from TV revenue. They are doing it at the expense of the live events.

All you have to do is look at the crowd shots at sporting events and compare them to 15 to 20 years ago. Crowds are smaller at all sports events. Of course, $4.00 per gallon gas has some of the blame for this. But also, people are so used to watching sports on their large screen, Hi definition TVs they don’t go to games as much. But with more games to go to, that means more opportunities to go to a live game too. And that keeps crowds down at each event too.

It would be a good thing if sports and TV took into account the live event and what makes watching on TV the best possible show. When you watch on TV, you want to see a full crowd having a good time. You don’t want to watch half empty grandstands. So maybe the glut of games would be a good place to start getting back to those days. Stop sending everybody to the playoffs.