I’m referring to the length of an NFL season, of course.
Yesterday, Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal reported that the league would cut the season in half if necessary, shortening it from 16 games to eight.
An eight-game season could start in late November. Allowing for five weeks up front for free agency, training camps and perhaps one preseason game, the contingency suggests that the league and players could reach a deal on a new labor agreement as late as mid- to late October and still salvage a season.
Setting aside the ludicrous notion that five weeks would be required for an abbreviated free agency process, eight games would be hard to swallow. At some point, it’s just not worth it. The longer the season, the more room we have for the truly good teams to rise to the top. A really short season creates a massive opening for teams to ride all the way to the Super Bowl on lucky breaks.
If the 2010 regular season ended after eight games, the New York Giants would’ve been the top seed in the NFC (they finished out of the playoffs), the Tennessee Titans would’ve been the No. 4 seed in the AFC (they finished wayyy out of the playoffs) and the Indianapolis Colts would’ve missed the playoffs.
Since the merger, the NFL has had only one season span fewer than 14 games. That was in 1982, when they played only nine games because of a 57-day player strike. The shortest NBA season in that time frame was 50 games (1998-99 lockout), the NHL shrunk their 1994-95 season to 48 games (although they lost the entire 2004-05 campaign), and Major League Baseball has never dipped below 100.
In fact, none of the four major North American professional sports leagues have ever cut a season in half. They’ve either played the majority of the games called for, or they haven’t played at all. So an eight-game NFL campaign would set a new precedent.
The ’82 NFL season was dangerous, but it didn’t cost the league because the Redskins were considered to be a legitimate champion. That year, they let 16 teams into the playoffs in order to iron out any anomalies in the shortened schedule. No team that would’ve missed the playoffs in the regular format survived the first round.
It’s safe to say, though, that anything under eight is a no-go, right? Can we trust the NFL to abide by a policy such as that? What if there’s a major labor breakthrough in November? Will they try to cram a five- or six-game season down our throats in order to save some face, crown a champion and make some money?
Let’s hope not. Halloween should probably be the drop-dead date. After that, we’ll see you in 2012.