The NFL has it perfect right now. A 32-team league lends itself to mathematical perfection when it comes to scheduling a 16-game season. Everything about the NFL schedule makes sense, from the rotating divisions teams play against every third year to the six divisional games every team plays to the two games teams play every year against two conference teams who finished in the same place in the standings.
It is why whenever the NFL talks about either of the two things that would wreck this perfection — expansion or an 18-game schedule — it makes even less sense than you think. Are 16 games too many? You certainly could argue that, but the fact is: Football is a dangerous sport. Guys would (and did) get hurt in a 14-game schedule, and a 12-game schedule. And would get hurt in an eight-game schedule, too.
So football can be left alone.
It’s the other sports that, in a perfect world, would turn their schedules over to men with machetes and let them chop away. Not only do MLB, NBA and NHL schedules drag on, they clearly take a toll: Look at how many injuries pile up simply because there are so many pit stops on the way to the playoffs. And look at the mess that resting NBA stars has created (maybe some of them should have rested more, the way they’re dropping).
We propose these things knowing owners and players like money just as much, enjoy revenue just as much, and would be reluctant to part with the dollars that reduced schedules would mean. But for a few paragraphs, anyway, can’t we at least dare to dream of what could be possible if we revamped — and shortened — schedules?
Major League Baseball
Current schedule: 162 games
Revised schedule: 154 games
Baseball managed to survive quite nicely on 154-game schedules from 1901-60 (AL) and ’62 (NL). It may not sound like a lot, eight fewer games scattered across six months, but I never have talked to a baseball player who wouldn’t prefer a shorter slate, even by only a week.
How do we get there? In a 30-team league, it actually works quite well: Play 12 games against every team in your division (48). Play six games against every other team in your league (60). Play three games against every team in the other league (42) except your designated rival (the Mets/Yankees, for instance), against whom you play four (4) times. Voila! That’s 154.
Current schedule: 82 games
Revised schedule: 76 games
Some want to get especially radical and slice this to a 66-game schedule, but that seems a bit extreme. Six fewer games though? It would mean less of a financial hit. And, as with the NFL and MLB, it makes mathematical sense.
How do we get there? In another 30-team league, this works well, too: Play four games against every team in your division (16). Play three games against every other team in your conference (30). Play two games against every team in the other conference (30). Every other year you get an extra home game against conference teams out of your division. Equitable…