What’s the craziest thing you could think of when it comes to sports? A team just deciding to stop existing? The NBA deciding to stop keeping score? The New York Knicks winning the championship?
All of those are quite unrealistic, but I would like to explore a theory that I don’t think is as crazy as it sounds. Are you ready? Please make sure you have your crazy suspenders on, because here we go:
I think every team in at least one major sport will automatically make the playoffs in the future.
(It should be noted that I hired a group of people to loudly gasp right then.)
Yes. This is what I believe. And let me tell you why.
First, each major sport has recently announced that they plan on expanding the playoffs in the next few years. The NFL wants to add two more teams, the NBA wants to add four, and the MLB has proposed adding more wild card teams. With each of the proposals, these leagues are proposing letting pretty much half of their teams in the playoffs.
So my first point is, we are already halfway there. Literally.
Second, I think it would be more entertaining than what we currently have. Let’s use the NBA as an example. They are proposing that the 10th seed in each conference gets to at least play in a play-in game. That’s 20 out of the 30 teams that get a shot at the title. Why not just let all 30 teams in? Then you can use a March Madness-style bracket to determine the champion. That would be incredible to watch! I think sometimes seven-game series in the NBA can become boring and tenuous to watch—especially in the first round. It would be much more fun if it were just one game! Anything can happen! The best teams in the NBA lose games to bad teams every night.
This leads to my third point: More fans would care about the playoffs! More fans watching= more money! (And yes, I do have a degree in Money thank you very much.) Let’s use a local team as an example for this point. The Seattle Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001. Any kid born this century has not seen them play in the playoffs. But if the MLB let every team in, they could see them have a chance at the World Series every year! Money people can sell a lot more ads if there are more playoff games! Sports are all about hope. Giving fans at least a little bit of hope that their team can win the title is the very least each league could do.
To go along with the last point, imagine the storylines that could emerge from doing this! Maybe the lowly Miami Dolphins go on an amazing run and make it to the Super Bowl! (Ok, I won’t lie, that’s really the only storyline that could happen, but it would really spark interest!) Conversations would go like this:
“Hey can you believe the Dolphins made it to the Super Bowl?”
“No. I can’t. They were not good this season.”
Fourth, I think this would help keep the leagues more balanced. I think if it was guaranteed that each team made the playoffs, star players wouldn’t jump to join the teams that win all the time. Again, I think this would help keep local interest in teams up. More people interested = more money. (And yes, I have a Master’s Degree in Money thank you very much.) Wouldn’t you rather be the person who led the improbable Hornets to the title, rather than the person who joined the Lakers and won easily? I don’t know, I could be completely wrong about that. And I support players playing for whoever they want; I don’t think they should be bound to the team that drafted them. But I think players would be at least a little more inclined to stay with their teams, and I think that means more people would watch.
Lastly, why do anything else??? Playoffs are the only thing that matters. Why even do a season? Start with the playoffs. Start with the most interesting thing you have to offer. (Ok, this might be too extreme, but it’s fun.) Fans often complain that the same teams always win the championship, so why not give more teams a chance to change that? There can be so many merch opportunities with this idea. T-shirts that say “we made the playoffs!” Hats that exclaim “we actually made it pretty far in the playoffs this year. I’m excited about our future!” People buying more things = good economy. Good economy = more money. (And yes, I did make that joke three times thank you very much.)
You might say, “Oh this would make the regular season meaningless.” Yeah. That’s exactly the point. Who cares about the regular season? The NBA has seen ratings decline this year. Well, maybe it’s because their season is too long. Same with baseball. I do not want to watch 162 regular-season games. You might also say, “this is basically giving everyone a participation trophy.” But hold on, I said nothing about giving everyone a trophy. If anything, we should take things away from the good teams if they lose in the early rounds. Like maybe if a 1 seed loses in the first round, they have to play only on the road in the playoffs next year. Or maybe they can only play with one shoe next year? Or maybe we just have a gold old fashioned public shaming of them at their local town square. Instead of a victory parade, they have to have a losing parade. Both in their city, and in the city that beat them.
The point is, I don’t care too much about an overly long regular season, but I would care a lot about a month-long playoff extravaganza. ( I mean we already do this with March Madness.) And I think you would too.