Mike Stubbs: How about a little madness in the NHL and the NBA?
Eminem has recorded six studio albums, two compilations and a couple of other albums with the hip-hop supergroup D-12.
All of that adds up to thousands of lyrics featuring tens of thousands of words, but arguably Eminem’s most memorable lines begin with:
Look, if you had one shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you have ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?
It’s hard to get to the start of a Game 7 anymore without Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” playing around the stadium at some point.
It celebrates the power of the one-off. Like fights and shootouts, it is hard to look away from a game that is winner-take-all.
March Madness and the NCAA have created an empire around it. It makes the NCAA more money than any other property — oddly-named football bowls included.
The last media rights deal for March Madness was US$10.8 billion over 14 years. Of course, they get to sell tickets and merchandise on top of that.
Every single football league uses winner-take-all, more so out of necessity and longevity of playing careers than anything else.
But it is surprising that more leagues have not come up with ways of making one-offs a thing.
Look at the attention Major League Baseball’s wild-card games get. Their numbers are right around what networks get for each League Championship Series. A perceived dud matchup can lower the totals, but the wild cards are now seen as a kickoff to baseball’s post-season.
Why aren’t the NHL or the NBA giving this a shot? The easiest answer is that it is gimmicky.
The playoffs are a team’s reward for surviving the grind of an 82-game season and you shouldn’t play 82 games to be eliminated in a single night. (Even though Major League Baseball allows that to happen to two teams after 162 games.)
But how about letting things get a little gimmicky for a second?
More than a few fairly recent decisions made by the NHL and the NBA have been made purely for fan entertainment.
We have shootouts and the removal of the red line in hockey. We have fewer timeouts and strict rules on the length of halftime in basketball.
All of that is for the fans.
So, while the followers of March Madness get swept up in the tension, suspense and upsets that will brew and boil over during the tournament, see what you think of this for the NHL and the NBA.
It still needs a good name, but here’s how it could create a mini-March (or mid-April Madness) in each of those leagues:
In both the NHL and the NBA, 16 teams make the playoffs. Let’s not alter that too much. Teams earn their spots. Let the top seven teams from each conference through the post-season door. No questions asked. Then, take a look at the eighth place teams and see which one has the better record. They get in automatically too. Just like always.
That 16th team can still get in, but instead of advancing to GO, they need to make a stop-off at the proverbial Marvin Gardens. Pick a host city, preferably outside the NHL or NBA family. Seattle might be a nice fit in the near future. Houston in hockey? Buffalo in basketball?
Send the teams that finish 16th through 23rd in the overall standings to that spot. When they arrive, you will find that there are eight of them. Seed them, have a random draw for opponents, do whatever you would like, but play them off over the course of four days. The winner qualifies for the post-season. Everyone else is out.
The winning team must face the team that finishes first overall in the standings in the first round, regardless of conference. That gives an extra reward to the best team in the regular season. They get to play a weary and worn-out opponent in Round One.
The league (and host city) get financial benefits.
You only need to find one extra day in the schedule to make it happen because you would use the days leading up to the start of the playoffs. Fans are hungry for the product during that time, so you are just giving them want they want a little earlier.
The Islanders, Rangers, Blackhawks, Oilers, Red Wings, Canadiens, Knicks, Pistons, Lakers, Bulls and even the Mavericks would still be in the hunt for some sort of playoff spot. There might not be as much tank-talk around some of those cities if they still had a shot at some excitement.
And the fans would get a warm-up to the post-season thanks to four days of must-see, one-offs.
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