Sports

It's Time to Shorten the Regular Season in Professional Sports

Bam Adebayo dunks during Game Seven against the Boston Celtics on May 29, 2022.
Bam Adebayo dunks during Game Seven against the Boston Celtics on May 29, 2022. Photo by Andy Lyons via Getty Images
There are too many games.

Marathon regular seasons ended with both the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers finishing at the top of the league, only for the Heat to limp to the finish line all banged up and Panthers' season to come to an unceremonious end in Tampa.

The circumstances for both teams begs for a discussion that's often alluded to but never talked about directly: Regular seasons are too long, and it's time for a change.

Of all the major sports, only the NFL regular season leaves fans wanting more — but even they have recently extended it and plan to add more.

It's time for a chance. Sometimes less is more — in life and in professional sports. Here are five reasons it's time to shorten the regular season.

Injuries

The main argument for a prolonged regular season is that more games played equates to finding out which team is truly the best. That, however, is a known fallacy. More often than not, the healthiest team plays the best and therefore wins.

An 82-game NBA season that stretches from before Halloween to the summer is outdated, taxing, and something that made sense long ago before athletes were putting the wear and tear on their bodies they do today. Gone is the day of 20 midrange jump shots. These days, players jump higher and run faster than ever before. They need time to rest and recover. The game might end up improving, too.

Money

We get it. Sports teams need to make money. But what if they made less money? What if ESPN didn't pay $20 billion off television rights but only $15 billion instead? What if top MLB players only had to play 100 games instead of 162 and salaries topped off at $30 million per year instead of $50 million?

Would everyone involved be OK? Yes. No one would go hungry, and fans could keep more money in their pockets instead of spending it on games where players rest or teams are half-assing it because they're out of the running for a championship and just want a better draft pick.

In the end, fans run sports leagues. Fans pay for the product. There is just too much product. Less is more, and less makes more games feel special.

Risk vs. Reward

What is the reward for playing hard through an entire marathon season in professional sports? One more home game. Huh?

That is, for every league besides the NFL.

As currently constructed, a team can rest its players for 40 percent of a season, grab the final spot in the NBA playoffs, and flip the entire seven-game series on its head by winning a single game on the other team's home court. Make that make sense.

In the NFL, the best regular season is rewarded with a bye week. An entire week off. A free pass. Other leagues need to take note.

Interest

There are 162 Miami Marlins games every year. If each game takes roughly three hours, fans have to dedicate more than 20 days each year to watching Marlins baseball. That was cool in the '50s when there was nothing else to do — not so much in 2022.

The NFL does things right: It owns a day of the week and everyone sets aside those hours to cherish its product. For the average fan, the majority of the regular season is background noise. Seeing the Marlins have a game against the Orioles means nothing. It's one of 162 days of the year — or more if they make the playoffs — that the Marlins play baseball.

The market is oversaturated.

Overlapping Schedules

The MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL are legendary businesses that are recognizable around the world. They should each get the spotlight and get it alone. It's a known fact that many NBA fans don't check in on the season until January because that's when the NFL season ends. The first 30 games are basically a prolonged preseason.

These four leagues should split the year into quarters (or fifths for Inter Miami CF fans) and run their seasons during those four months. They would be seen as a much bigger deal and leave the fans wanting more.

Two-Sport Athletes

We're being robbed of witnessing some of the greatest players of all time and we don't even realize it. Kyler Murray is a quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals but was a high MLB draft pick and has said openly that he badly wants to play baseball. The league could use his stardom. It makes no sense that sports in America make players choose as professionals when they don't have to choose as kids.

Imagine LeBron James playing tight end for the Rams because his eight-month NBA offseason allowed it. Sure, there would be health risks, but the entertainment value would be through the roof. Isn't that what sports is all about?
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi