The dog days of summer ends, fall begins. The weather noticeably gets colder, you find yourself putting on a jacket when you go outside for the first time in over 5 months. You look out your window and see the leaves changing to fall oranges and yellows and you grimace at the thought of the fact, soon you will have to rake all those leaves up. You think about the upcoming holidays and turkey with the family (for better or for worse). But there are other nostalgic feelings that rush over you. That magical feeling that puts a smile on your face is sports, and watching your favorite teams. At this time of year sports fans think about the soap opera that is college football and the BCS. They think about the parity and excitement of the NFL (including Fantasy Football). They think about the MLB playoffs.
You know what sports fans don’t think about this time of year? The NBA.
It’s not that sports fans don’t know it’s going on (okay maybe some actually don’t notice), but it’s more because they just don’t care (yet). But it’s not their fault. You can’t blame the sports fan. How can you when you have America’s favorite sport, football, in full swing, where every game actually has significance and every game counts. How can you blame the sports fan when the MLB is in full World Series mode to determine the next Champion? You can’t. And for the casual NBA fan you want to follow the NBA in October and November but it’s difficult. You say to yourself (casual NBA fan), “I’ll catch the highlights on Sports Center”. It’s a lot to ask the casual NBA fan to invest two and half hours per game on an NBA game in November (when games really don’t matter). For example the Lakers have gone a whopping 0-11 from the start of preseason to this point of the season. But no one “cares”. Because it’s the beginning of November so it really doesn’t matter. In the end we know the Lakers will be a very strong team and a title contender. However, if the Lakers went on a 0-11 drought in March or April it would be all over Sports Center, all day long. Why? It’s because that’s when NBA games will matter (with the playoffs around the corner) and because by then Football and Baseball will be out of the sports picture.
Now I’m fully aware of why the teams (owners and executives) and the NBA or “The Association” (a phrase Reggie Miller has seemed to coin this season and uses non-stop in his commentary, which I’m starting to find kind of annoying), wouldn’t/doesn’t like the idea of a shortened season, and it’s quite simple. The longer a business can sell a product the more money that business can possibly make. From the team owners and GM’s perspective, they want games to be spaced out as much as possible to give their players as much rest as possible and reduce the possibility of injuries. A long NBA season gives time for players to come back from some injuries that will inevitably happen. Lastly, a long NBA season will give teams more time to “gel”, especially if you put a lot of new faces on a team in the off-season.
As an NBA fan I’m aware of these concerns. However, from a NBA fan’s perspective a shorter season will be much more exciting. Now I’m not asking for the season to have only 50 games and to be truncated into 3 months. I’m aware of the many debacles that occurred in both the 1999 and 2012 truncated seasons. Exhausted players, injuries left and right and sloppy play where many times the teams should have given the fans their money back. On the contrary, I would like to see 65 games instead of 82 games and cut about a month to a month and a half of the season. The NBA will start around a week before Christmas. Christmas is historically the NBA’s big holiday extravaganza. Christmas is to the NBA as Thanksgiving is to the NFL. The week of Christmas can be the NBA’s big “Premier Week” with the marquee match ups being on Christmas day. So you cut the number of months of a NBA season but you also cut a proportionate number of games as well, this way you are not cramming games together and fans get to still watch a quality product. Games will start to “matter” sooner into the season.
American sports fans are like babies that see and stare at shiny objects like a key chain full of keys. Before Christmas those shiny objects are college football, NFL, and Major League Baseball. The NBA should wait for these “shiny objects” to be out of the way before they roll out their product. Sports fans would actually welcome the beginning of a new season of a sport after the others are either over or ending. It will be like un-wrapping another present from under the tree.