Consumers are too often hoodwinked by retailers with the markdown game. That is, the retailer sets an artificially high price floor, then “discounts” it by a substantial margin. Last week, Cavs fans were bamboozled by a similar tactic. Isiah Thomas made his Cavs debut on Tuesday in Cleveland, and then didn’t play in a potential return to Boston. It seemed odd to bring the hyped acquisition back for a teasing one game, just for him to go back to the bench. Also, Kevin Love went straight to the sidelines after an early injury. And while Lebron and Kyrie Irving played, it seemed either they went through the motions or were robbed of their talents by the Monstars. All in all, the national TV matchup proved to be another regular season snore. With the NBA making billions every year, is there reason for concern about an 82 game slate that seems to mean nothing?
The notion of a playoff to determine a champion is certainly better than the alternative for a large league. In early baseball, a team who got off to a poor start would be out of the race quite early. Playoffs keep more teams in the race, giving fans from lesser teams more to talk about. What could be wrong with more tip-offs and play-balls? The cheapening of what should be a great accomplishment.
Fans are fascinated the most by athletic feats of great difficulty. Plays like Odell Beckham’s and Wille Mays’s catches capture more awe than kneel-downs and free throws, even though these seal wins. Since big plays means big revenue, it’s naturally tempting for leagues to make then more common. But this is a potential trapdoor. As bankers know, making more of something good makes consumers happy for a short time, but devalues the commodity very quickly.
College football fans have always argued that more teams should make the playoffs to give more teams a chance. But the NBA has proven that there’s no point in doing so if a few teams have all the talent. In the East, the Cavs, Celtics, and Raptors are leagues ahead of everyone else. Furthermore, Lebron’s team has won the East seven years in a row, making even Raptor and Celtic fans reserved in their optimism. In the West, the Warriors and Rockets have shot past the rest of the field. Even the perennial power Spurs are an afterthought now. As Bucks fans found out when the team played the Heat, the playoff loses its shine pretty quick when one team is much better.
It’s too much to ask for the NBA to trim the playoff field, considering the huge TV revenue from four playoff rounds. A more reasonable solution is the make the playoffs, and regular season race by extension, more suspenseful by busting the Superteam. Even Michael Jordan, certainly known to play on some good teams, has criticized the dichotomy of two great teams and 28 “garbage” squads. And the NBA need not look far to see a model of parity.
The NFL has become the Google or Facebook of sports. This is due from giving almost all teams a chance to reach the Super Bowl. This weekend, the Bills, Jaguars, and Titans kicked off, and the Cowboys and Packers didn’t. Fans need not wait for mellow Monday to look forward to next year. If the NBA can implement a sound salary cap, and find a better answer to age minimums, the playoffs could become must see again. Even just a few years ago, the West playoffs were a crap-shoot, with Even Spurs-Mavs being must-see TV. With Golden State’s sharpshooting proliferating league-wide, pro ball has never been as fun to watch. With a few tweaks to the system, the same could soon be said of the postseason as well.