Give it (and me) a rest

by Eric Nelson

Many of you have been there: a mostly empty stadium, Double A-talent entertaining you for major league prices, a lazy conversation with your ballpark buddy that’s rarely interrupted by a reason to cheer. And you’ve probably — even if you aren’t a Cubs fan — wondered on that dog day in September: “Why am I here?”

The question is not existential, but literally about why the baseball season must drag on so long. Sure, a late September pennant race is exciting. But fewer than 162 games would mean we get to the World Series without needing the winter ballparkas — and spare us baseball backwaters some wasted autumn afternoons watching our lovable losers.

In a digital age where meals are ordered and delivered in minutes, albums purchased in seconds, and children’s attention lost to touch screens in fractions of those seconds, the one thing that seems to consistently extend in time is the length of professional sports seasons. Extra “wild card” rounds, extended preseason seasons, soccer seasons with matches stacked on “friendlies” stacked on the occasional unrelated Open Cup contest — it’s a full-time job to be a fan.

Perhaps less could truly be more. The most riveting and energetic recent NBA season was in 2011-12 — which didn’t get started until Christmas due to labor issues. And I can’t be the only one who wonders, does a Minnesota hockey fan really want to be watching playoff games four months after the neighborhood rink melted away?

Sport schedules ought to match the orbital seasons of Earth, concluding seasons when the weather dictates. Hockey, for example, could be played only when there is a statistical chance that it could snow outside.

One sport seems to get it right. Football season is the perfect length. Games start during the tail-end of summer, fans bask in crisp fall weather, and playoffs finish with the occasional snowstorm. But to be honest, truly “ending” would mean convincing the NFL to curtail its unofficial 365-day schedule of drafts, camps, media blitzes, signing periods, off-season events, sports radio previews, preseasons and fantasy football drafts, which seem to pick back up about four hours after the Super Bowl ends.

Hey fat guys, give the fat lady a chance to sing.