CITIFIELD – As the days grow longer and the boys of summer wax their way into the forefront of our thoughts, we often neglect the fact that the NHL and NBA seasons are waning into their anticlimactic finales… that somehow happen in June. In no way am I criticizing either organization’s product quality. The NHL and NBA playoffs are some of the most action-packed and entertaining sporting events of the year.
The problem is that much like clam chowder, hot chocolate, and Scotch whisky; sports have a season. Hockey is a WINTER sport. Basketball is a WINTER sport. So why are these sports playing their championships in the summer? If I have my choice of watching a Cardinals game or the NBA finals, I choose Cardinals all the time. If the Blues are not in the playoffs the NHL playoffs, I will watch but I am certainly not tuning into every game.
In a perfect world the NHL and NBA seasons would end in April. In April it’s still chilly out. Other than Opening Day, fans would much rather attend an indoor event as opposed to going to Yankee Stadium and freezing their organs off. Furthermore, if the NBA and NHL playoffs began at the beginning of April, they could retain their multisport fans (like most of us here) who normally bail on hockey and basketball in favor of new beginnings in baseball. Baseball knows this better than anyone. Come September when the NFL and college football gets going there is a noticeable drop in viewership of MLB games due to people jumping ship for new beginnings in football.
So how do we Fix The Playoffs? Simple… Fewer teams make the playoffs. Fewer games are played in the regular season. The Kings were the first team to ever win as the eighth spot in the NHL playoffs. In the NBA it has never happened. So why let them in? It forces the best teams in the league to play a meaningless series against an undeserving opponent.
This year’s hockey season is a perfect example of why fewer games should be played. It was packed with some of the highest quality regular season play I have ever seen. With fewer games there is more on the line every night. Popovich and Spoelstra won’t be sitting their star players in throw-away games because there won’t be any throw-away games. Do we really need 82 games to know that the Heat are the best team in the league? Do we really need 82 games to know that the road to the Stanley Cup goes through Chicago and Pittsburg? Hell no.
I bet if MLB knew what they knew now about the NFL they would have kept the regular season at 154 games and the Fall Classic would be over on October 15th – as it should be. If it wasn’t for the Blues, hockey wouldn’t even be on my radar right now. That said, its Cup or bust, baby.
Different Matt, tomorrow.