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The case for shorter sports seasons

Should the NHL and NBA shorten their seasons? What about the MLB?

I say yes, I’d be in favor of a 60 game season for both the NBA and NHL, and I think even a slightly shorter season with games starting closer to Thanksgiving would help the NHL and NBA’s TV ratings as they move closer to the end of the NFL. So where’s the proof of this you say? Well the proof is in the past 2 lockouts in the NBA and NHL…This past year “NBC saw its highest regular-season TV audiences (excluding the Winter Classic) for its opening games on Saturday, and all local NHL ratings posted a collective 32 percent increase versus the same number of games at the start of last season. Source.  And take a look at this as far as the NBA is concerned, “NBA viewership was down during the ’12-13 regular season, as audience numbers dipped compared to the record-setting, condensed ’11-12 season. “, Source.  So the argument that less games means less money isn’t necessarily the case…Yes there will be less concession sales and lower attendance numbers, but how much less? Will there be more sellouts? Will the NBA and NHL be able to charge more for TV ads? Will the arenas be able to charge more for billboard ads? I think the answer to these three questions is YES and YES and YES….If there’s more TV viewership you can charge more for ads, if there’s more sellouts you can charge more for in-arena billboards, if there’s more people at the games then the sellouts make up for the half empty arenas during those extra games, not to mention the ability for the teams to charge more for individual/season tickets…

    Ask yourself this sports fans, what’s the most popular league in sports today? It’s a very obvious question, The NFL….The NFL can physically only have 16-20 games because of the toll the games take on their players; but Sunday football is a national past time for many families and friends alike.  A lot of NFL fans plan their whole weekends over a tailgate or football party; and there are more Super Bowl parties than NHL Stanley Cup, NBA Finals, and MLB World Series parties combined! Why is this? Yes football has a lot of hard hitting, but football has a ton of stoppages, penalties, commercial breaks and instant replay lag too. It’s because of the scarcity; there are only 16 regular season games, and every game means something. Every game is an event on that Sunday in the Fall/Winter when NFL teams meet. And yeah, Major league baseball has 162 games, but they also don’t have much competition, and they also have the same problem as the NHL and NBA in the spring. Crowds come for opening day, but then they leave until the kids get out of school in June. Baseball should seriously think about shortening the season also. The problem baseball has, that the NHL and NBA don’t have is the obsession with yearly stats. 20 game winners, 70 homeruns, .400 batting average milestones etc….If they shorten the MLB season then these stats get shortened also. My argument against that is that steroid prevalence, especially in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, have made the stats useless anyway. Do people really consider Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa 70+ homeruns greater than Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle after finding out that Bonds/Sosa/Mcgwire were juicing, and we’re not talking Jack Laline juicing? And forget about the steroids, what about less injuries? Baseball also has a big problem at the beginning/end of the year with weather too. If baseball started 5/1 and the regular season ended say 9/20, there wouldn’t be tons of rain outs and even snow outs in the World Series!

    If NBA/NHL superstars such as the Bull’s Derrick Rose or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby didn’t have to play 80+ games a year, would those superstars play longer? I say the answer is emphatically YES, not only that, but coaches in the NBA have been known to sit superstars in meaningless end of season games. You also had a fairly new phenomenon in the MLB where veteran pitchers like Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens were signed by teams after the all star break to go out and pitch only half the year. You also have infamous pitching counts and game counts for pitchers like, Eric Strasburg of the Washington Nationals, because the MLB season is just way too long.  Also, remember that the shortened seasons in the NHL and NBA were also condensed! Even in a condensed 2010-2011 NBA season injuries were down according to NBA league commissioner David Stern…  So if your superstars get hurt less, can play long and perform at a higher level, will the league and players make less or more money? The obvious answer is the league will make more money, and even if the players salaries are slightly lower for one year, they will be able to play longer and earn more over their career.

    If the season is shortened, would the players try harder? Again I think the answer is yes, it’s very taxing to be an NBA center or a NHL goalie, but if there are only 50-60 games instead of 80 then you don’t have to pace yourself as much, you have more days off and you’re more rested. Enough conjecture though, let’s look at the stats. Take a look at the 2011-2012 point totals in hockey, compared to this year’s.  Notice anything strikingly different? I do, there are about 15 players in 2011-2012 averaging a point a game, whereas this year there are almost double that! That’s right, double the amount of players scoring a point a game. Now you might say, well does that mean the defense got worse? Even if you were right, what do you think fans want to see, more scoring or less scoring? What generates revenue? Of course more!  But if you look at the goals against averages for goalies, they are very similar for both years…If anything, the goals against average is slightly better for goalies in 2012-2013. But, look for yourself. 2012-2013 goals against, 2011-2012 goals against

    Ok, so let’s move on to the NBA. Now in 2011-2012 the NBA had a 66 game season that was crammed into a shorter amount of days. This shortened season was only 16 games shorter than usual. With a quick glance over the normal stats like points per game, assists per game, and turnovers there’s no obvious differences, however when you look at total stats such as simple ratings, which are, “a production measure (a variant of John Hollinger’s PER rating) for a player’s own stats versus the counterpart player on the other team while he is on the court, as well as a simple on court/off court plus minus. This rating is actually more of a placeholder until the more sophisticated analysis we produce is made public, but still offers a good fast read on player performance. ” Basically it’s the better version of points for NHL players, take how the player is done on and off the court and also factor in how players that play the same NBA position as that player fair into consideration. Check out the 2011-2012 stats compared with the 2012-2013 stats, notice anything strikingly different? I do…There are 11 players with a simple rating of 10 or above from the 2011-2012 shortened season, basically players that had “superstar” like numbers. and in 2012-2013 there are only 5 such players….Going down a tier you can also see that there are 22 players with a +7 simple rating in the 2011-2012 shortened season and only 14 players with a rating of 7 or above in the 2013 season…After these superstar like stats, things start to even out, but as you can see, the NBA has always been a superstar driven league, so why would they want there to be less superstar like play? A shortened season of say 60 games would allow for better rest for marquee players and more superstar-like ratings! So why not do it? I say to the Bud Selig’s, Gary Bettman’s and whoever the new NBA Commissioner will be, shorten the seasons even if it’s only 5-10 games, the TV revenue will go up, the excitement will go up, and the fans won’t just be ready for some football.



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