The League

David Aldridge
Sports Reporter

David Aldridge

A nationally recognized sports journalist.

Don't Change It


Trust me--as someone who covers the NBA, where everybody makes the playoffs if they produce a coupon from a box of Fruit Loops, the NFL should not even think about increasing its postseason pool.

The only reason a regular season matters in pro sports is because fans know at the end of it, someone will not make the playoffs. Most teams will go home. Mediocrity should not be rewarded (and, yes, I know the sub-.500 Hawks gave the Celtics their best postseason challenge last season). The NFL's regular season, with its 16 one-act plays, is the perfect engine for driving week-in, week-out suspense, where every game is of paramount importance to local fans--and national gamblers.

The NBA and NHL get those moments only occasionally; there's no scoreboard watching needed when you know your ticket is already punched. Yet having all those teams rarely produces playoffs that, in total, are compelling. (One exception was in 2006, when the NBA's first two rounds may have been its best non-Finals playoff rounds ever.) Don't get me wrong; I love the NBA playoffs, because I think the best team almost always winds up winning the title, which is the point of playing, isn't it?

By contrast, for example, does anyone really think the Dodgers, other than Orel Hershiser, were better than the A's in '88?

Six NFL playoff teams might already be two too many as it is, but I understand the need to keep interest (and, therefore, ratings and ancillary revenue streams) longer in as many cities as possible. Adding even one more playoff team per conference would distill the NFL postseason into warmed-over ginger ale. Just like its exhibition season erroneously referred to as the "preseason."

By David Aldridge  |  October 16, 2008; 10:56 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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