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Prister: Amping up the drama: series and relegation (Feb. 3)

Eric Prister | Thursday, February 2, 2012

One of the best things about sports is the drama it occasionally produces. Few things cause as much joy and pain at the same moment as the result of an exceptionally close sporting event. So as grand master of all that is sport, why wouldn’t I want to increase the drama?

Football is already one of the most dramatic sports, so little needs to be changed there. In fact, football will be the basis on which I increase the drama in the other sports.

The NFL’s 16-game schedule nearly always produces close races that come down to the last week of the season. Even more dramatic is the college football season, where one loss can cost a team the chance at a championship. So how to best duplicate this drama in sports where the regular season seems more like teams are going through the motions?

The NBA is a prime example — an 82-game schedule when more than half the teams make the playoffs keeps things about as exciting as a football game that ends 9-6. Teams take games off and the best teams in the league know almost before the season starts that they’ll make the playoffs.

But what if that season was shrunk to 20 games? The excitement would certainly increase. But 20 games is a terrible sample size for basketball games. So instead of 20 games, I would make the NBA season a set of 20 five-game series. That means teams can play anywhere from 60 to 100 games per season, and must beat a team three times in five tries to earn a win.

Because the playoffs would be decided by a team’s record in its series rather than its games, each would be important. Teams that are successful would have a shot at more rest because they could finish a series in three rather than five games.

The MLB could institute a similar process. Teams would play 25 seven-game series, more against teams in their division and none against teams from the opposite league (dissolving interleague play). Each game becomes more important because it is, for all intents and purposes, part of a seven-game season. And the series are each important because they are a part of a 25-game season.

In addition to the new schedule-type, I would set up a relegation system similar to the one the English Premier League uses. It would split each of the “big-four” professional sports leagues in half, and the bottom teams from the upper division would be in danger of losing their spots to the top teams in the lower division. This makes sure that almost every team is playing the entire season, either for a playoff spot or to keep themselves from being relegated.

Drama is what makes sports great. A last second 3-pointer, a two-minute drill touchdown drive and a bottom of the ninth walk-off home run are some of the most dramatic and exciting moments in life to witness. Changing schedules and creating relegation systems serve only to increase this drama.

But one type of drama needs to be avoided at all costs — the type of drama created by talking heads on television stations that provide 24-hour sports coverage. We need to avoid drama manufactured by people screaming and making predictions for the sake of drama. And for this reason, as my last act as grand master of all that is sport, I would make a decree that Skip Bayless is no longer allowed to speak in public. Ever again.