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April 27, 2001

by Bill Hogan



It seems the NBA and NHL use the six month, 82-game regular season solely for the purpose of weeding out the really horrible teams - the weakest links.

Fifty-three percent of the teams in the NHL make the playoffs. In the NBA, it's fifty-five percent!


The NBA Eastern Conference isn't exactly brimming with quality teams, yet, eight of fifteen teams qualified for the playoffs. The playoffs are supposed to be a post-season reward for a regular season job well done.

I think the NBA would have been a lot more exciting to watch in March and April if the Knicks, Raptors and Hornets were battling for the fourth and FINAL Eastern Conference playoff spot, instead of jostling for seed position.

Home court is an advantage, but there is a greater sense of urgency when the alternative to more road games is packing up and going home for the summer.

Vince Carter and the fifth seeded Raptors should be inquiring about tee off times instead of flight times to New York. Raptors, you are the weakest link - bye, bye.

It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to see Charlotte, Orlando or Indiana win a first round series, but what are they doing in the playoffs to begin with? Being the sixth, seventh and eighth best teams in a conference of fifteen does not make you a playoff caliber team. It makes you (that's right) the weakest links - bye, bye.

It wouldn't have been inconceivable for the 2000 Cleveland Indians to beat the New York Yankees in a five game series last year. They didn't play. Why? Cleveland had the fifth best record in the American League, so they didn't make the playoffs. At 90-72, they were (dare I say it) the weakest link - bye, bye.

Baseball does it right. Every game counts, not to weed out the weakest links, but rather, to determine the league's best.

* * * * *

Two weeks. A fortnight. The time it takes to determine the champions of one of the world's oldest and most distinguished lawn tennis tournaments.

Two weeks. A fortnight. The time it takes to complete a best of five series in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Ridiculous.

These guys are used to playing five games in a week. Let them.

And forget about the need for "travel days" when the series changes venues. What's a couple of hours on a chartered plane where all the seats are first class, the drinks and headphones are free and the choice of meals does not include chicken salad or vegetable lasagna?

A couple knocking knees in coach, traveling cross-country with small children, one still in diapers, they need free drinks and headphones. They need a travel day (or two) when they reach their destination.

NBC could have knocked a day off that fortnight by scheduling a couple of more games last Saturday rather than broadcasting the XFL Championship to the fifty or so interested viewers. Just a thought: If you broadcast a championship game, and nobody watches, who wins?

It's obvious that the networks are dictating the schedules. It's obvious that the networks are (you got it) the weakest link - bye, bye.

* * * * *

Eureka! The NHL has completed its first round playoff games. Eight best of seven series' that spanned only thirteen days.

If the upcoming Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh series goes seven games, they'll be down to four teams by May 10th. Maybe we'll have a champion by Memorial Day!

Note to NHL executives: No first round series went past six games. A best of five first round series would have produced the exact same results. If you're going to let fifty-three percent of the league participate in the playoffs, the least you can do is spare us from a seven game first round!

The NHL has always been in the clean-up spot when it comes to popularity. They are clearly behind MLB, the NFL and the NBA (though they remain ahead of the MLS and, no, I'm not even going to mention the XFL).

If you want to make the NHL regular season more interesting, if you want to attract the kind of network revenue currently reserved for the big three, give those 82 games more significance!

Top four teams from each conference go. To the other twenty-two teams, you are (here I go again) the weakest link - bye, bye.


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