Smaller is better?

In comments made to the media last December by Lebron James, the Miami Heat star seemed to favour reducing the number of teams in the NBA. After making these comments, James was ripped by most sports journalists who believed it was not athlete’s place to comment on the state of the league and its teams. But this doesn’t change the fact that James got the issue of contraction right; the NBA and the other major American sports leagues have far too many teams that, year after year, fail to be competitive. Do we really need to continue to be subjected to the abysmal performances of the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors each year? Does the state of Florida really need two NHL teams? Does California need three? (The answers to these questions are: no, no and no).

In making his comments, James brought up a problem that plagues most professional sports leagues. That talent pool is simply not deep enough to accommodate 30-plus teams. The NHL, NFL and the NBA could all stand to shed a few useless, underachieving teams (I’m looking at you Jacksonville). The only league that seems to be doing fine in this department is Major League Baseball who, ironically, makes no efforts at all to regulate that talent level between teams and yet somehow remains the most competitive.

By contraction of the teams that are not competitive, each league would be able to provide a more equal distribution of its athletes. In doing so the level of completion in each league would also be raised significantly. Instead of each team having one or two star players, teams would be able to have four or five. By improving the overall product, these leagues would be able to sell each game as an actual spectacle that can’t be missed. What would you rather see: the Los Angeles Lakers play the Charlotte Bobcats, or the Miami Heat? (Hint: It’s not the Bobcats).

But contraction isn’t the only thing that needs to be changed. Another issue that the major American sports leagues need to deal with relates to the number of games each team plays per season. Both the NHL and the NBA play 82 games per season. Do we really need 82 games to figure out which 16 teams are the best? Anyone with a decent understanding and interest in either league could probably guess 13 out of the 16 teams that make the playoffs each year.

Of course, when discussing the amount of games played one cannot leave out Major League Baseball. The MLB has the biggest problem regarding the amount of games played each year: a whopping 162 games. Are you fucking kidding me? You don’t need 162 games to tell me that the Yankees are probably the best team in baseball. Why do each of these leagues need so many games? They don’t. They exist for one reason: money.

Money is the reason the MLB has 162 games. Money is the reason that every major professional sports league has at least 30 teams. The owners and administrators of the leagues are only concerned with the profit their league makes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care that they make money. I like money as much as the next guy, but greed for greed’s sake is just wrong. By making useless teams play useless games, we, as fans of sports, are effectively being robbed of a quality product.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve tuned in for a game only to turn it off in disgust halfway through because the discrepancy in talent is so great that the game isn’t even competitive. By bloating their leagues with hack teams and joke franchises, the fans are being robbed of the reason that sports exist in the first place: competition. It isn’t competition when the Miami Heat blowout the Raptors by 20 points; it’s a joke.

So the next time you tune into a game expecting to see a close competitive contest but are rewarded with a piece of shit blowout, remember that the reason this game sucks is because the suits in the league office felt like their profits just weren’t large enough.